The relationship between sports and gambling, once at arm’s length and now almost hand in hand, is embodied by the brothers Maloof.
The family owns both the Palms Casino in Las Vegas and, since 1998, the Sacramento Kings. The National Basketball Association approved the family’s purchase of the team after they agreed to quit taking bets on NBA games in their casino’s legal sports-betting operation.
“As long as we don’t have the NBA in our sports book, everything is fine,” George Maloof said. “And we haven’t had one problem.
“They are two different businesses. We just have an interest in both. We like the gaming business, and we like the sports business. It’s a unique combination.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw more sports owners get into gaming.”
The next sports team to do that could be the Penguins, who hope to use a slot machine parlor to finance construction of a new arena.
In addition to the Penguins’ plans, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis stirred a National Football League inquiry when he announced his limited partnership with Charles Betters’ proposal to build a horse track, casino, hotel and retail complex in Hays.
Both plans resulted from the slots law enacted in Pennsylvania two weeks ago and bring closer to the surface the often rocky relationship between sports and gambling.
Sometimes, the relationship is direct and ugly, as in the infamous cases of the Black Sox scandal (players fixing 1919 World Series games) and Pete Rose (betting on baseball and other sports) and numerous point-shaving incidents in college basketball over the past half-century.
In recent years, though, peaceful coexistence has been the rule. ITT Corp. set the precedent by becoming the first casino-owning corporation to buy major professional sports franchises, owning the New York Knicks basketball and New York Rangers hockey teams and their home, Madison Square Garden.
Pro sports and gambling interests get cozier
Actually, I think that Del Webb was the first corporation to own both casinos and a sports team. It owned the Sahara and Mint in Las Vegas and also owned the New York Yankees, though I’m not 100% that the ownerships overlapped. This was when the 10% bookmakers tax pretty much put casinos out of the sportsbetting industry, so there was no conflict in that area.
It’s interesting to see newspapers in areas that hadn’t previously been hotbeds of gambling–like Pennsylvania and California–suddenly begin running pieces on the subject. I think that the result has been some great stories.