DOTHAN, Ala. – The NFL is investigating the reported investment by at least 25 NFL players in an Alabama casino that has been shut down, a business venture that might have run afoul of league rules.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the investigation Friday, a day after Yahoo! Sports reported that wide receivers Terrell Owens, Santonio Holmes, Santana Moss and other players had invested some $20 million in Country Crossing casino. The report also named defensive tackle Gerard Warren and linebacker Adalius Thomas, a free agent who played for the New England Patriots until his release before last season.
NFL rules bar employees from involvement with any gaming operation. Players violating that rule could be subject to fines or suspensions and have to give up their investment.
Country Crossing owner Ronnie Gilley and two of his lobbyists have pleaded guilty to offering legislators millions in bribes.
Country Crossing and another Alabama casino are at the center of a probe that resulted in nine people going to trial accused of buying and selling votes on pro-gambling legislation, including four former or current state senators.
The country music-themed development included electronic bingo, restaurants, a concert amphitheater, an RV park and an Inn. Thomas was a partner in a barbecue restaurant that had been scheduled to open in June.
State police raids and court rulings closed the two bigger casinos and other gambling operations around the state.
Attorney Keith Givens, who provided the land for the project, is helping lead efforts to reopen the businesses. Givens did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press on Friday.
Representatives for the casino and the named players either did not immediately respond to phone calls or emails or had no immediate comment.
Mark Culver, chairman of the Houston County Commission, said he didn’t have information about specific NFL players investing but that there had been discussions about a group making a collective investment.
“We wouldn’t have intimate knowledge of who has and who hasn’t invested,” Culver said. “But from early on in the project professional athletes were talked about, so it would not surprise me that athletes had been invested in the project.”
Yahoo! Sports said boxer Floyd Mayweather was an early investor who is trying to get his money back.
Former NFL players Cornelius Griffin and Jevon Kearse also have put in money, the report said.