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Chris Jones

Super Sunday: Vegas Ads Again Slip NFL Block

8 February 2005

LAS VEGAS -- The National Football League's efforts to stop Las Vegas-themed ads from airing within this year's Super Bowl telecast were as successful as Sunday's bumbling two-minute drill offense by the Philadelphia Eagles.

And as a result, local tourism leaders came off like the New England Patriots: victorious for the second year in a row.

Despite repeated promises to the contrary, the NFL was again unable to prevent ads touting Las Vegas from airing within coverage of its signature event. An executive with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority confirmed Monday a "Vegas Stories" ad was shown at least once Sunday in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

In Southern Nevada, viewers also got several in-game looks at a new 30-second ad touting Wynn Las Vegas, a soon-to-open Strip hotel-casino whose ties to gambling would never earn the antigambling sports league's approval to air during its games telecasts.

The NFL has rejected Las Vegas' attempts at national ad buys in each of the past three Super Bowls. But last year, the convention authority and its advertising agency, Las Vegas-based R&R Partners, found a loophole by purchasing ad time directly from CBS affiliates in five key U.S. television markets.

As recently as Friday evening, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy vowed that avenue would not be available with Fox affiliates this year. He said the league informed the network and its affiliates that Las Vegas-themed ads were prohibited by Fox's NFL broadcasting contract, which bars anything associated with casino gaming.

The league maintains Las Vegas itself is synonymous with casinos.

But the operators of eight Fox affiliates apparently felt otherwise, and the convention authority's $2.2 million ad buy was a success.

"We're very pleased that the local stations and affiliate owners took the time to distinguish between destination advertising and the marketing of gambling," Terry Jicinsky, senior vice president of marketing for the convention authority, said Monday.

Jicinsky said the convention authority will learn later whether those ads were shown during the pregame, postgame or game coverage in each respective market. Efforts to reach NFL representatives were unsuccessful Monday.

Jill Saarela, general sales manager for Las Vegas' Fox affiliate, KVVU-TV, Channel 5, also confirmed the Wynn Las Vegas ads were purchased directly from her station.

"I was told they wanted to do a national ad but were told no," said Saarela, who declined to disclose how much Wynn Las Vegas paid to air its ads, which featured Wynn atop his hotel tower but failed to depict casino-related activities.

Denise Randazzo, a Wynn Las Vegas spokeswoman, said the company tried to purchase national and regional ads but was rejected by Fox representatives. The company settled for local ad placements that aired in Las Vegas and Reno.