The latest episode of the NFL’s famous charade of We Have Nothing To Do With Gambling comes from Houston, where casino proprietor and minority Houston Texans owner Tilman Fertitta finally cashed out.
Fertitta, part of the original Texans ownership group, wanted no part of leaving, and said as much.
“We work very hard to make sure that gambling doesn’t have any influence in the way our game is played,” [Texans majority owner Bob] McNair said. “The concern is that if one of our owners has interest in a casino then there might be some conflict of interest along the way. And they don’t want to have any questions about that.”
McNair and Fertitta tried to work with the league to get around the rule for the past three years, but their attempts failed. The current ownership group bought Fertitta’s shares, with the amount and purchase price undisclosed.“Bob was very helpful and as you see, we prolonged it for two years,” Fertitta said. “We got through (former NFL commissioner) Paul Tagliabue, but there’s a new NFL commissioner (Roger Goodell) and it was something they just wanted to get worked out.”
I can’t feel too bad for Fertitta; he’s forced to leave one high-profile, money-making machine for his other high-profile, money-making machine. I like the rule; there has to be a zero-tolerance policy in all sports with gambling.
At the same time, many have been quick to forgive the NBA for employing someone that was almost certainly fixing games. That might be apples and oranges, comparing one rogue referee to a more institutional presence like an ownership group. The latter would only damage their own product with that kind of scandal. The NFL enjoys the status of being the most popular sport in America right now. Who’d want to gamble that away?