The Washington Redskins football team endorsed a yes vote in the ultra-expensive gambling expansion referendum heading for the Maryland ballot this fall, contending the measure will bring thousands of jobs to Prince George's County.
The NFL team, which trains in Northern Virginia but plays its home games in Prince George's, said it was joining a coalition of businesses that support Question 7, which would permit a casino in the county and allow table games at Maryland's current and planned slots parlors.
"As members of the Prince George's County business community, we see it as our obligation to speak out in support of major economic development initiatives," said Dennis Greene, president of business operations for the team.
The Redskins' approval of the ballot question continues a recent pattern of NFL-related involvement in Maryland political issues. A referendum that would bring same-sex marriage to Maryland has won the endorsement of Ravens special teams star Brendon Ayanbadejo and the opposition of team center Matt Birk.
Kristen Hawn, a spokeswoman for the ballot committee backing the casino question, said she understands that the Redskins' endorsement of the casino question does not violate any NFL gambling policies. The pro-casino committee is largely financed by casino companies MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, while the opposition is financed by Penn National Gaming. The two sides have together put up more than $30 million to contest the issue.
The NFL has long had a strict policy against its players becoming involved in gambling-related activity, but the league recently relaxed its rules about casino advertising in its stadiums and on radio broadcasts. It still bans casino advertising on NFL TV broadcasts.
Tony Wyllie, senior vice president of the Redskins, declined to answer questions about NFL policy but said the team supports bringing more revenue into the state's Education Trust Fund.
Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, said the Redskins did not clear the endorsement with the league office in advance but were not in violation.
"So long as a proposed casino would not include sports betting, there is nothing in our league guidelines that would prohibit a club from supporting this type of ballot referendum,' he said.
Sports betting would not be permitted by the legislation on the Maryland ballot.