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Can the NFL stomach Robert Kraft’s proposed casino deal with Steve Wynn?

TAGs: Green Bay Packers, NFL, Robert Kraft, Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts

nfl-kraft-wynn-casino-dealBoston is slated to get one of Massachusetts’ new casinos and Steve Wynn would very much like to build it. Robert Kraft, owner of the National Football League’s New England Patriots, has land for lease within spitting distance of Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium. So Steve and Robert struck a deal, which may or may not get the approval of the locals, let alone the NFL. The league has traditionally opposed its ’employees’ having anything to do with casinos, even if it the activity has nothing to do with sports betting.

Officially, the NFL tells players there is “a long-standing policy against any advertising or promotional activities by players, clubs, coaches or other management personnel that can reasonably be perceived as constituting affiliation with or endorsement of gambling or gambling-related activities.” And they’re not kidding.

In July, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior and backup QB Charlie Batch had to back out of attending the grand opening of the local Meadows Racetrack and Casino after being informed that their presence might violate league policy. Farrior said at the time: “I don’t want any ripples with the NFL. [Commissioner] Roger Goodell already said if you break the rules during the lockout, you will get in trouble when we come back.”

More recently, Terrell Owens and Clinton Portis filed separate complaints of negligence against a law firm for its work on their investment in an Alabama entertainment complex. The project in Dothan featured a casino, something the athletes claimed they weren’t told in advance. Portis’ complaint says the legal eagles should have known that “the NFL Rules of Conduct likely prohibited Portis from investing in the project.”

Kraft has given no indication that his end of the Wynn deal would involve anything more than a rental agreement, so he could legally argue that he won’t be profiting from gambling; his tenant Steve will (nudge nudge). Still, if Kraft gets a pass from the league, the players will have a whole new right to haggle over during their next contract renewal and/or work stoppage.

The NFL definitely has a kryptonite-worthy reaction to gambling. If New Jersey’s sports betting lust is ever consummated, will the 2014 Super Bowl be Jersey’s last? There’s never been a Super Bowl in Las Vegas because the NFL doesn’t want TV cameras catching (a) fans proceeding directly from the sportsbooks into the stadium, and (b) the subsequent failure of the world to end because someone bet on sports.

While forward looking minds in Jersey (and even Canada) want to lure North American single-game sports betting out of its exclusive Nevada compound, the NFL isn’t making it easy. The Green Bay Packers are a community-owned franchise that recently held the fifth stock sale in its 92-year history. (Shares are available for $250, plus a $25 handling charge.) CNBC’s Darren Rovell found some interesting fine print in the shareholder agreements, specifically, the part where the NFL can fine a shareholder up to $5k for betting “on the outcome or score of any game played in the NFL.” Believe it or not, that applies even if a stockholding Cheesehead is on a Vegas vacation. Time to punt, NFL…

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