The NFL has a high degree of sensitivity regarding gambling, even though gambling is responsible for a major chunk of the league’s TV ratings. People who bet on football games typically like to watch the games on which they’ve bet, and the NFL typically likes that. And while the league implicitly acknowledges the existence of gambling by creating the impression, via the injury-reporting rules, that there’s no inside information for gamblers to attempt to obtain (even though there is), the league draws the line when it comes to owner, coach, executive, and/or player involvement in gambling.
Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that at least 25 NFL players could be required to give up their interests in an Alabama bingo and entertainment operation that was shut down in 2010, and that could re-open later this year. The project, located 10 miles south of Dothan, Alabama, is known as Center Stage. It previously went by the name Country Crossing, before authorities forced it to close when “electronic bingo” operations in Alabama were required to stop using slot-machine lookalikes.
“If it were to be determined that an NFL employee had made an investment in violation of league policy on gambling-related activities, that individual would be directed to withdraw the investment and it would be reviewed for potential discipline,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Cole.
The players involved, per Cole, include Terrell Owens, Santana Moss, Santonio Holmes, Gerard Warren, and Adalius Thomas. The NFL players invested roughly $20 million into the project. If forced to sell before the facility reopens, the players possibly could lose a lot of their money. And, in theory, they could separately be disciplined by the league.
Though we realize that the NFL has certain rules about which players knew or should know, here’s hoping that the league will be as cooperative and understanding with the players involved as the league was with the Rooney family, which deliberately acquired gambling interests that exceeded the league’s limited exceptions (primarily applicable to horse-racing and dog-racing operations). The league gave the Rooneys more-than-ample time to reconfigure the ownership of the Steelers, opting not to insist on an abrupt and immediate divestiture and demonstrating the kind of patience that other franchises possible would not have enjoyed.
We’re not requesting special treatment for the players. We’re hoping that the league will keep in mind the special treatment the Rooneys received before forcing the players to abandon their investments and/or imposing discipline.