SPORTS

Gambling ties could scuttle Buffalo Bills ownership picture

TAGs: American football, Buffalo Bills, jeremy jacobs, NFL, sports

buffalo-billsThe NFL’s Buffalo Bills aren’t for sale. At least not yet. But the team’s future in Buffalo was thrown into doubt when owner Ralph Wilson died last month.

Since then, a lot of talk has centered around what the team’s future would be moving forward and talks of a change in ownership has been broached on numerous occasions. One potential buyer that has been identified is Jeremy Jacobs Jr., the son of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Sr., and what the Buffalo News reported as being a member of one of the area’s wealthiest and most influential families.

What’s also become apparent is that the younger Jacobs has been in talks with the Wilson family regarding the fate of the franchise. Wilson’s widow, Mary Wilson, is now the team’s controlling owner but whether her family continues to keep the Bills or decides to place it on the market has caused a lot of concern in the community. That’s why the Jacobs family is getting involved, and should the time come when the team does end up on the market, the younger Jacobs told the newspaper’s website that his family is doing all it can to ensure the “Bills stay in Buffalo”.

Jacobs didn’t confirm or deny any interest in actually buying the team, leaving it out as a bridge they’ll either cross or don’t cross when it gets there. “It’s still early in the process, and it’s impossible to say either way,” the younger Jacobs said.

In the event the family does decide to buy the franchise, it should be of great news to the city of Buffalo because unless they pull a Clay Bennett, the team will likely stay in the community. But actually getting there is an entirely different matter because there are a lot of complications that need to be ironed out before a sale is completed. A big stumbling block towards a Jacobs purchase of the Bills is a rule in the NFL that prohibits owners to control major sports franchises in different markets. That’s a problem because the senior Jacobs already owns the Bruins and has made it known that he’s not selling the team just to buy the Bills. Smart choice from a championship standpoint because the Bruins are the best team in the NHL right now and the Bills are, well, getting by in the NFL.

The Jacobs family can work around that rule, though, especially after seeing a precedent in the case of now St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Back in 2010, Kroenke turned over financial and operational control of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche to his son Josh, clearing the way for him to become majority owner of the Rams. So if the Jacobs family can do that, there shouldn’t be any problems pulling it off.

But there’s a more serious roadblock that even the younger Jacobs admitted as being complicated to work around on. The family owns Delaware North food service company, and among its holdings are racing and gambling operations across the country. The problem is, the NFL forbids owners from having any links to casinos, racetracks and other gaming interests.

If the Jacobs family intends to buy the Buffalo Bills, you can bet your underwear that the NFL will compel it to drop its entire gambling business before signing off on the purchase. That’s a compromise I don’t know the Jacobs family will be comfortable making and to his credit, the younger Jacobs admitted as much, saying that the NFL’s anti-gambling rules is a serious complication to any purchase plans down the road.

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