Fertitta Owns Casinos And Steak Houses, Why Not An NBA Team?

[toc]In a week of devastating news coming out of Houston, one story could be a big boon for one of the city’s major sports franchises. Casino owner and restauranteur Tillman Fertitta announced he is purchasing the Houston Rockets basketball team for $2.2 billion.

Fertitta’s purchase could be biggest in NBA history

With such a hefty price tag, this is the biggest sale of a team in NBA history. The previous record is the $2 billion sale of the LA Clippers to Steve Ballmer in 2014.

The Houston Chronicle first reported the sale on Tuesday. Fertitta also issued a statement about his acquisition from previous owner, Leslie Alexander:

“I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets.This is a life-long dream come true…Leslie Alexander has been one of the best owners in all of sports, and I thank him immensely for this opportunity. He has the heart of a champion. Lastly, out of respect for the NBA’s approval process, I can say no more other than I am overwhelmed with emotion to have this opportunity in my beloved city of Houston.”

As Fertitta noted, the sale is far from final. First, the league needs to look over the arrangement and sign off on it. Under Alexander, Fertitta currently owns a small percentage of the team. This could lead to an expedited vetting process. Even so, it will still take several weeks for the league to fully research the potential new owner.

How does Golden Nugget impact the sale?

Fertitta purchased the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, NV. in 2005. He then bought the Trump Marina Casino for the relatively cheap price of $38 million in 2011. Fertitta remodeled and rebranded the property as Golden Nugget, which is currently the top-performing New Jersey online casino.

Being a casino owner will not preclude Fertitta from owning the Rockets. In fact, Caesars Chairman Gary Loveman has an ownership stake in the Boston Celtics. However, most teams with ties to casinos are connected to casinos which do not offer sports wagering.

What could be affected is which bets his Nevada casino can offer on NBA. For a brief window yesterday, the Golden Nugget sports book actually took its NBA futures lines off the board. The bets are back, but there is a chance the Rockets will not be part of them in the future. At Caesars, there are no wagers available on the Celtics. A similar rule could be in place for Golden Nugget as well.

It is worth noting Fertitta is considerably more involved in the gambling scene than Loveman is. Previously Fertitta got in hot water after gambling at Borgata and the now-closed Revel casinos in Atlantic City, which is something someone of his level in a casino company is expressly not allowed to do. He also personally approved another casino owner’s March Madness bet earlier this year.

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Is this a sign NBA is softening on sports betting?

The current NBA Comissioner Adam Silver has gone on the record that he is more willing to consider legal sports betting more than other sports leagues. Approving Fertitta would be another step closing the gap between the league and the wagering community.

Considering the NBA is one of the plaintiffs in the upcoming New Jersey sports betting case in the Supreme Court, it is certainly an interesting development that their biggest deal in history is arguably funded with sports betting money.

Image credit: f11photo / Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media and online gambling world. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com. Welman has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.