The owner of the SLS Las Vegas on the Strip is looking to buy the Arizona Coyotes National Hockey League team.
A representative for Alex Meruelo said the billionaire entrepreneur, who also owns the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, confirmed talks are progressing.
“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,” Christopher Abraham, a spokesman for the Meruelo Group, said in a brief statement.
No terms of the deal have been announced.
The Coyotes has been on shaky financial footing for years, filing for bankruptcy protection in 2009.
The team hasn’t qualified for the NHL playoffs since the 2010-11 season.
Meruelo has a reputation for acquiring failing companies, fixing them and maintaining them, as opposed to spinning them off, a formula he successfully used for the Grand Sierra Resort and the SLS Las Vegas.
The pending transaction is expected to be on the discussion agenda when the NHL Board of Governors meets in Las Vegas June 19.
A representative of the NHL had no comment on the possible sale. But a gaming industry analyst said a transaction could be an important step for sports wagering and for Las Vegas.
“Meruelo’s acquisition of the Coyotes would represent simply another step toward a fuller comingling of professional sports and gambling,” said Chris Grove, managing director of sports and emerging verticals for Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.
“While his purchase alone won’t be enough to change the world, 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sports teams and the rapid spread of legal sports betting, will be to eventually dismantle many, if not most, of the outdated league policies and procedures that have erected artificial business barriers between the worlds of gambling and pro sports,” he said.
It hasn’t been uncommon for cross ownership in gaming and professional sports. In most cases, casino owners who hold ownership interests in pro teams take games involving their teams off the betting board in their sportsbooks.
For example, Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Golden Nugget franchise with properties in downtown Las Vegas and in Laughlin, doesn’t take bets on games involving the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, which he owns.
However, because National Football League rules prohibit its owners from casino involvement, Fertitta was required to relinquish his holdings in the Houston Texans NFL franchise, in which he was a founding investor.
While the state Gaming Control Board does not break out the number of hockey bets placed annually — it’s among sports wagers listed in an “other” category — the amount bet on football is more than three times the amount bet on “other” sports. Football, basketball and baseball wagers include betting on both professional and collegiate teams.
The NHL playoffs will end Wednesday when the St. Louis Blues play the Boston Bruins in Boston in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The 2019 NHL Honors, an awards show, will be staged at Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 19.
It will be the 10th time the league has brought its annual awards event to Las Vegas, with previous shows occurring at the Palms, Encore, MGM Grand Garden Arena, The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, and T-Mobile Arena.
While National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman is on record as saying a new arena for the Arizona Coyotes is essential to the team’s future success, there’s no indication prospective suitor Alex Meruelo has had any discussions about building a new venue.
The Coyotes play in the Gila River Arena in Glendale, near State Farm Stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals National Football League team.
Many of the Coyotes’ premium club seat and season ticket holders live in Phoenix’s East Valley and in Scottsdale, up to an hour’s drive away.
It’s unclear whether a new arena will be part of the decision-making process on Meruelo’s bid.