Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Author Home Author Archives Search Articles Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Related Links
Recent Articles
Chris Jones

NFL Tightens Super Bowl Restrictions

3 February 2005

LAS VEGAS -- Burned by last year's sneaky-but-successful effort to showcase Las Vegas advertising within its signature game, the National Football League said Tuesday it has tightened its defenses surrounding Sunday's broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIX.

Though local tourism leaders hope otherwise, ads touting this city will not be aired by any local or national affiliates before, during or after Fox network's live coverage of this year's game, an NFL spokesman said Tuesday.

In addition, Las Vegas will be one of five U.S. cities where league-hired investigators will be on the prowl this weekend to guard against potential violations of the league's copyright protections.

Las Vegas' uneasy relationship with the popular New York-based sports league has been magnified in recent years after the NFL in late 2002 rejected local efforts to show a "Vegas Stories" ad during ABC's national telecast of 2003's Super Bowl.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's ads have been repeatedly rejected because of the NFL's long-standing desire to distance itself from illegal and legalized sports betting. While none of the ads in question depicted casino or sports book activities, league officials claim Las Vegas itself is synonymous with gambling.

A similar national ad buy was also rejected by the NFL and the CBS television network in 2004. However, the authority managed to place in-game ads in five major U.S. television markets by quietly purchasing 30-second time slots directly from CBS affiliates in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

That strategy was not made public until Super Bowl Sunday, a move local tourism representatives said minimized the NFL's ability to prevent the spots from airing. Two days later, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Review-Journal the ads violated the league's advertising policies and said any future attempts to air local advertising during NFL telecasts would fail.

Speaking Tuesday from Jacksonville, Fla., the site of this year's Super Bowl, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy again said the league's television contract specifically rejects gaming-related advertising. And this time, the league has made sure its television partners are fully aware of that ban.

"We've notified Fox that the (anti-gaming ad) policy remains in place, and that it applies to national broadcasts and local affiliates," McCarthy said, adding violators would "be dealt with internally" by the NFL and its broadcast partners.

Despite that stance, the convention authority still hopes one or more Fox affiliates might challenge the NFL and the Fox network. Senior Vice President of Marketing Terry Jicinsky said the authority has offered to buy ad time from Fox affiliates in several U.S. markets, though no such deals were complete as of Tuesday afternoon.

"The $64,000 question is, at the local level, how much power does the NFL have over local (television) affiliates?" Jicinsky said. He personally estimated the city's chances of securing an ad in Sunday's pregame, postgame or game telecasts were "a 50-50 shot."

If any local affiliate says yes to the ads, Jicinsky said a standard "Vegas Stories" spot would be used. Last year, the convention authority developed 30-second television ads that directly mentioned "the game in Houston," the site of last year's Super Bowl.

Las Vegas this year also failed to conduct a ground-level campaign in Jacksonville despite past successes with local advertising efforts in Super Bowl host cities. Such efforts weren't needed this year, Jicinsky said.

"We continue to get feedback from casino operators that shows it's a great weekend for Las Vegas," he said.

Convention authority projections support such claims. On Tuesday, the tourism agency said local hotels and motels will be 95.3 percent occupied this weekend, down slightly from last year's 95.8 percent.

Visitors' nongaming impact is projected to rise to $101 million this weekend, up a bit from last year's $100.7 million.

McCarthy added an unspecified number of NFL workers will closely watch businesses in Las Vegas, Boston, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Biloxi, Miss., to ensure sports fans there aren't charged to attend Super Bowl-themed parties or events. The league says such events violate its copyright protections.

"We heard a movie theater in Philadelphia plans to charge people to watch the (hometown) Eagles play on a big screen. We're trying to stop things like that," said McCarthy, who added league rules generally prohibit the public display of its games on screens larger than 55 inches.

Several local casinos have said they'll comply with the NFL's request, even if means cancelling popular Super Bowl viewing events.

The NFL's crackdown isn't limited to gambling concerns. Still stinging from last year's halftime exposure of singer Janet Jackson's right breast, McCarthy said the NFL, Fox and its affiliates have worked closely to ensure this year's game telecast, and its commercials, remain "suitable for a mass audience."

Many U.S. media outlets last month noted Fox's rejection of a planned Super Bowl ad for Airborne, a natural cold remedy. The ad would have given viewers a brief glimpse of 84-year-old actor Mickey Rooney's rear end, but Fox deemed the ad "inappropriate for broadcast," USA Today reported.