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Chris Jones

Irate Mayor Again Rails About NFL Ad Policy

9 February 2005

LAS VEGAS -- It's become an annual rite of winter, and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman held true to form Tuesday when delivering another post-Super Bowl tirade against the National Football League.

At this month's scheduled board meeting of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Goodman slammed the popular sports league for everything from its repeated refusals to show Las Vegas television ads within its broadcasts to its willingness to let an offshore sports book promote itself at a league-sponsored function.

"They're disingenuous. They're hypocritical," Goodman said of the NFL. "For us to kid ourselves and think we've made any progress with them is a bunch of hooey."

As was the case in January 2003 and February 2004, the longtime defense attorney asked the convention authority to sue the league. His prior requests never resulted in a court case, however, and none of the other nine board members in attendance Tuesday commented on Goodman's suggestions.

This year, Goodman's argument was bolstered by an audiotaped interview of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Addressing the media in Jacksonville, Fla., before Sunday's Super Bowl, Tagliabue was asked about the league's policies regarding Las Vegas. His answer briefly mentioned sports gambling -- which the NFL does not want associated with its games -- before he launched a brief but rambling discourse on the legalities of alcohol sales and a need for responsible advertising policies.

"He was asked a very simple question and started talking about beer," said Goodman, who described Tagliabue's comments as "virtually unintelligible."

Goodman noted that newspapers across the country carry NFL betting lines set by Las Vegas handicappers, as well as NFL-produced injury reports that bettors commonly analyze before wagering each week.

"Who are they kidding? The NFL wouldn't be what it is unless people were betting on the games," Goodman said. "No one's going to watch a football game without putting a bet on it if they have any sense. The league was based on that principle, yet they pretend that does not exist."

The mayor's biggest objection this year was the NFL's willingness to allow, an online sports betting site based in Costa Rica, to set up a media booth in conjunction with a pre-Super Bowl party. Online wagering is illegal in the United States.

"Apparently that wasn't offensive," Goodman said.

Luke Puschnig, the authority's legal counsel, said Tuesday he plans to study Goodman's suggested lawsuit.

"There could be changed factual circumstances. ... But at this point it's too early to say," Puschnig said when asked if this year's call for a lawsuit was different than before.

Other locals may not share Goodman's enthusiasm for taking the NFL to court, particularly gaming companies that depend on some semblance of NFL cooperation in order to maintain broadcast rights to show satellite coverage of professional football games in local sports books.

An executive with a major Las Vegas casino company, who asked not to be identified, said the gaming industry hopes this city's issues with the NFL never escalate to litigation. Such a conflict "wouldn't serve anyone's purposes."

For the record, Goodman said he first bet on New England, a 7-point favorite. He later placed a second bet on Philadelphia, receiving 7 1/2 points.

New England won 24-21 score, and Goodman said he became "the only mayor in the country who can say he lost the (vigorish)."

NFL officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday.