Next Arizona Cardinals Stadium Name Might Break NFL Cardinal Rule

Posted on: May 11, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: May 11, 2017, 12:26h.

The Arizona Cardinals have played in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale since the 72,200-seat domed facility opened in 2006.

Arizona Cardinals stadium Gila River
The metallic exterior of the Arizona Cardinals stadium might get a touch of neon if a tribal casino group wins the future naming rights. (Image: Christian Petersen Cannon/Getty Images)

The institution, which specializes in online degrees but does have an actual campus in Phoenix, has paid tens of millions of dollars to the government-owned stadium in exchange for the naming rights.

Last month, however, the Cardinals announced that the university was looking to forego its continued sponsorship. The NFL franchise began looking for new suitors, and along came the powerful Gila River Indian Community, owners of three casinos in the Phoenix metro.

That presents serious issues for the NFL, and potentially puts the Cardinals out of bounds with the league’s gaming policy.

The Phoenix Business Journal is reporting on the developments, but to date, neither the Native American group, nor the Cardinals or NFL, are commenting. However, the team did confirm that the University of Phoenix was folding on the naming rights.

“We are excited about identifying a new naming rights partner for the next era of the stadium’s success,” Cardinals COO Ron Minegar revealed in April.

Gambling on Policy

In addition to annual Cardinals home games and college football’s Fiesta Bowl, University of Phoenix Stadium has hosted two Super Bowls, an NCAA Final Four, and CONCACAF Gold Cup, all in its short 11-year history.

The venue is considered one of America’s premiere sports facilities, due to its relatively new construction, and the desired and dependable Arizona climate.

Allowing a tribal group to name the Cardinals stadium after its casino enterprises might be in violation of NFL regulations. The league’s Compliance Plan for players and organizations prohibits “participating in or condoning any form of gambling while in any club or league setting.”

“Gambling and gambling-related activities can pose a serious threat to the integrity of professional football and public confidence in the NFL,” the authoritative document states.

The mere fact that the Cardinals are even reportedly considering taking money from a casino-related group highlights the growing notion that gambling no longer presents the concerns to football it once did.

In 2017, 26 of the league’s 32 teams play their home games within an hour’s drive of a casino. That’s certainly true for the Cardinals, as four tribal gaming establishments are in the area, including the Desert Diamond a mere two miles away. Gila River’s closest venue to the Arizona stadium is 20 miles south.

Changing Times

NFL’s primary beef with gambling is sports betting, which is only fully legalized in Nevada. The Las Vegas Raiders will face monumental challenges in obtaining advertising from Sin City’s biggest companies, as the franchise can’t accept money from any entity that operates a sportsbook. In the casino capital of the US, that’s a heavy restriction to overcome.

Federal law prevents Gila River’s three casinos from offering sports betting, but the gaming entity potentially acquiring naming rights to the Arizona Cardinals stadium won’t likely sit well with the league’s front office.

In March, after the Raiders were approved to relocate to Las Vegas by the owners, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters, “Society has probably had a little bit of change with respect to gambling. I think we still strongly oppose it … and legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is number one. We will not compromise on that.”