Carolina Panthers

Even at $2.275 billion, new Panthers owner David Tepper still might have bought low

Could in-stadium sports betting be in Bank of America Stadium's future under incoming new owner David Tepper?
Could in-stadium sports betting be in Bank of America Stadium's future under incoming new owner David Tepper? Charlotte Observer file

Billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper blew some minds when he reached an agreement to purchase the Carolina Panthers for $2.275 billion, $2.2 billion of which will be paid up front, in cash.

But he still might have bought low.

The Supreme Court's decision allowing states to dictate whether or not sports betting is legal has financial implications for the NFL and its 32 franchises.

Sports betting is already a multi-billion dollar industry, and state-by-state legalization could allow teams to dip into that pool with corporate sponsorships and perhaps even on-site gambling.

"I think everyone who owns a top four professional sports team just basically saw the value of their team double," Mark Cuban, the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, told CBS.

But Cuban might be jumping the gun, according to David Carter, University of Southern California's Marshall Business School executive director and principal of The Sports Business Group.

"It's going to vary by individual team, within the state and by what that infrastructure will look like," Carter said. "It's going to depend on how aggressive owners want to be. I think you'll see a range among owners. Having said that, if someone is really, really going to be aggressive, I don't know that the franchise value doubles. ...

"I don't easily see a team over the immediate term generating a couple hundred million dollars more per year, depending on the league. (But) it might be even more than that."

Despite initial excitement from sports betting fans after Monday's SCOTUS ruling, it might be more realistic to imagine 2019 or 2020 — or even later — for any proposed ventures.

Soon-to-be Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper tells students at Carnegie Mellon's graduation ceremony that he once couldn't afford to attend an NFL game. Now, he's about to buy the Carolina Panthers.

States must pass individual legislation to legalize sports betting first.

A proposed bill would have to get through each state's government before becoming law, and no such bill has been introduced in North Carolina.

However, South Carolina Rep. J. Todd Rutherford (D) introduced, in January 2017, H 3102, a proposed amendment to the South Carolina constitution that would legalize sports betting in the state, after which Rep. Russell L. Ott became a sponsor. The bill is in committee in the House of Representatives.

Movement in South Carolina could influence North Carolina. And a franchise owner such as Tepper, who is about to become the most influential businessman in either state, could push for sports betting.

Another potential roadblock? Leagues could push for administrative "integrity fees" to police betting, which in current projections could be a quarter-of-a-percent of all money spent betting on games.

The NFL and NFLPA's statements after the ruling expressed the desire to work with legislators toward regulatory framework, to pay for programs to monitor the integrity of the game.

"I know teams and leagues are trying to push to get a percentage of all interactions, an 'integrity fee,' to monitor any inconsistencies in player or team performance," said Nels Popp, an assistant professor of sports administration at the University of North Carolina. "I'm having a hard time seeing states and betting organizations agreeing to that."

What it might look like

How might Tepper see the value of the Panthers increase, if and when North Carolina has legalized sports betting and all the issues have been worked out?

Andrew Brandt, a former NFL executive and current sports business columnist for Sports Illustrated, wrote a column this week detailing Nielson data that showed betting fans watching over twice the number of NFL games as non-betting fans.

Simply put, fans might pay closer attention with cash on the line. Higher ratings could raise the value of the already-massive television deals that provide much of the current cash flow for the league.

"What makes (NFL teams) so attractive are the media deals," Popp said. "The media, and then the sponsorship that follows that, those are big revenue streams for them and are very consistent."

With a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that legalizing sports betting should be left up to each state.

Hand-held opportunity

But what about outside the main network broadcasts?

Brandt also hypothesized that gambling via smartphone, which increases flexibility of location, also might increase engagement.

"Think about the possibilities of in-game betting from a mobile device, wagering on the next touchdown, the next field goal, the next play!" Brandt wrote. "The NFL knows its key challenge for future growth is attracting and maintaining younger viewers; engaging them in this space is a strategic way to do so."

Mobile opportunities, plus the idea of betting stations built inside stadiums or arenas, could directly drive profits back to the franchise.

"I definitely think that's going to be a huge growth area, the in-stadium opportunity," Popp said. "Teams will be able to monetize that. To me, that makes a lot more sense of where the growth will happen. And I'm curious (to see) if it'll also drive attendance, or if it's only something that people already there will want to do more of."

Tepper has already set a new market for NFL franchises, and is not coy in business dealings. The potential of legalized gambling could make him a trailblazer in a new sports betting landscape, too.

The team of legal and financial experts handling the sale of the Panthers will begin to meet with prospective ownership groups over the coming weeks. In charge of the legal side of the deal are Joe Leccese, New York-based chairman of Proskauer Ros

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue
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