SLS Las Vegas Casino Owner Alex Meruelo Exploring NHL Arizona Coyotes Purchase

Posted on: June 11, 2019, 11:31h. 

Last updated on: June 11, 2019, 11:33h.

SLS Las Vegas owner Alex Meruelo is considering acquiring the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

SLS Las Vegas Alex Meruelo Coyotes
SLS Las Vegas owner Alex Meruelo is considering buying the Arizona Coyotes NHL team. (Image: Arizona Coyotes/Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/

The businessman – whose Meruelo Group also owns the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno – has long sought an ownership position in a major professional sports franchise. It appears he’s close to accomplishing that goal.

The Atlantic’s Craig Morgan broke the news that Meruelo is “in the advanced stages of purchasing a majority share of the Arizona Coyotes.” The seller would be Andrew Barroway, who is currently the hockey team’s sole owner.

While we are unable to provide more in-depth information at this time, we can confirm Alex Meruelo, owner of Meruelo Group including SLS Las Vegas and Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, has expressed interest in purchasing the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes,” company spokesman Christopher Abraham said.

Meruelo has big plans for SLS, the Strip casino he acquired in 2018. Rumors are swirling that the property will soon revert back to its Sahara roots during the planned $100 million renovation.

Meruelo ended negotiations in 2011 to acquire an ownership position in the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.

NHL Values Soar

According to Forbes, the Coyotes franchise is the least-valued NHL team in the entire league at $290 million.

The league average is $630 million, with the New York Rangers leading the way at $1.55 billion. The Vegas Golden Knights – an expansion team that became Sin City’s first major pro sports franchise in 2017 – is valued at $575 million.

The league as a whole is flourishing. Forbes says average operating income per team hit a record $25 million during the 2018-18 season. That was a 39 percent jump on the prior season.

The financial media news outlet says increased cable deals has a been a major part of the revenue surge.

The legalization of sports betting – which has come as a result of the US Supreme Court overturning the longstanding federal ban in May 2018 – is expected to further help expand interest in the game.

Sports and Casinos Intertwine

The “big four” pro sports leagues in the US – the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL – have long sought to block casino owners who operate sportsbooks from gaining substantial interest in franchises. The SCOTUS repeal and subsequent expansion of regulated sports betting into new states has eased some of those oppositions.

Billionaire Tilman Fertitta, who owns the Golden Nugget casinos, acquired the NBA Houston Rockets in in the fall of 2017 for $2.2 billion. The league, however, required that his sportsbooks refrain from taking bets on games involving his Rockets.

Should Meruelo gain ownership of the Coyotes, NHL officials could require him to do the same at SLS – ban wagers on the Arizona team.

“The cumulative impact of such moves, alongside the successful efforts of Las Vegas to become a hub for professional sports teams and the rapid spread of legal sports betting, will be to eventually dismantle many, if not most, of the outdated league policies and procedures that have erected artificial business barriers between the worlds of gambling and pro sports,” Eilers & Krejcik Gaming’s Chris Grove told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.