Casino Owner Tilman Fertitta Buys the Houston Rockets

Tilman Fertitta Golden Nugget - Houston Rockets Owner

Tilman Fertitta owns Golden Nugget casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica, and Lake Charles.

Tilman Fertitta, the Texas restauranteur and casino owner, bought the Houston Rockets NBA franchise for a record $2.2 billion. The previous record price tag for an NBA franchise was in 2014, when former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion.

The sale is not final. The NBA front office has to review the Rockets sale and sign off on the proposition. Because Tilman Fertitta was a minority owner previously, the vetting process might be expedited somewhat.

One aspect of the sale might prove problematic for the National Basketball Association — the fact the Golden Nugget Las Vegas operates a sportsbook.

The Golden Nugget Race & Sportsbook offers a variety of sports and proposition wagers, including NBA games. Approving Tilman Fertitta for inclusion as an NBA majority owner would represent the first time a sportsbook operator has owned a basketball franchise.

Tilman Fertitta on Rockets Sale

The Houston Chronicle first reported the sale on Tuesday. In its initial article, Mr. Fertitta stated, “I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets. This is a life-long dream come true.”

In the statement, Fertitta praised the Rockets’ previous owner, saying, “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.”

Landry’s Inc. Holdings

Tilman Fertitta opened his first Landry’s Seafood restaurant in Katy, Texas in 1980. Landry’s Inc. became a sprawling restaurant empire in the decades since. These days, Landry’s Inc. owns Saltgrass Steakhouse, Bubba Gump Shrimp, Morton’s The Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s, and a variety of other restaurant chains.

Over the years, Tilman Fertitta also built a hotel empire. His first purchase was the Key Largo Hotel in Galveston. Since, he added the San Luis Resort, the Hilton Galveston Island Resort, and the Holiday Inn on the Beach to his list of hotel properties.

Golden Nugget Casinos

In 2005, he bought the Golden Nugget Las Vegas casino. Then he bought the Trump Marina Casino in Atlantic City, ultimately changing its name to the Golden Nugget Atlantic City. He also owns Golden Nugget-brand casinos in Tunica County, Mississippi and Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Tilman Fertitta’s connection to the gambling industry should be no obstacle to his ownership of the Houston Rockets. Gary Loveman, the former longtime CEO of Caesars Entertainment, is a minority owner of the Boston Celtics.

Golden Nugget Sportsbook an Issue?

No NBA owner has ever owned a casino which operates a sportsbook, though. The Golden Nugget Las Vegas’s sports betting operation might be an issue with the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver supports legalization and federal regulations of sports wagering, but does not believe a patchwork of state-based regulators could police sports gambling properly.

Both Adam Silver and former NBA Comissioner David Stern have stated they believe sports betting will become legal in the United States in the next few years. Silver wants to position the NBA to profit from legal sports betting, while David Stern has backed his former protege. The change could come quicker than most would imagine, due to New Jersey’s challenge to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 in the U.S. Supreme Court. The nine SCOTUS justices will hear arguments in the PASPA sports betting case in the next couple of months, then hand down a decision by early next year at the latest.

Houston Rockets 2017-2018 Season

If he becomes the next team owner, Tilman Fertitta will take over a Houston Rockets franchise during an entertaining era. James Harden is one of the highest-scoring and exciting players in the NBA, while new addition Chris Paul brings an additional superstar talent to the roster. While few teams can challenge the Golden State Warriors’ dominance in the NBA Western Conference, the Rockets should be one of the most entertaining and competitive teams in the league for years to come.