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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

Tourism: A Big Pitch into Coverage

7 February 2005

Local tourism leaders on Friday said they've likely found a way to air a new Las Vegas ad during the telecast of Super Bowl XXXIX.

And once again, a National Football League spokesman said the league's attorneys will be ready to pick off the city's every pass attempt.

In what has recently become an annual sideshow to the country's most popular sporting spectacle, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is trying to land a "Vegas Stories" ad in the Fox network's pregame, postgame or game coverage of Sunday's contest between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

The authority's attempts to buy national ad time have been rejected for each Super Bowl since 2003. But last year it managed to reach an estimated 20 percent of that Super Bowl's 144 million U.S. television viewers by separately purchasing ad time from local CBS affiliates in five U.S. cities.

In 2005, the authority hopes to spend $2.2 million to reach more than 25 percent of TV viewers with local ads in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

"These are major markets for us," said Rossi Ralenkotter, the convention authority's president and chief executive officer. "It's our responsibility to look at opportunities that can create more demand for Las Vegas, and the ... person out there watching the Super Bowl is our customer."

Despite evidence to the contrary, the NFL vehemently disagrees. The league, which wants no association with gaming, was not aware of last year's local ad buy until it was complete. It has since vowed to stop similar efforts.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy on Friday confirmed that position is unchanged, though he could not comment on what actions, if any, may be taken between now and Sunday to halt the proposed ads.

Unlike a year ago, however, this year's deal came at the request of the Super Bowl's host network, said Billy Vassiliadis, chief executive with R&R Partners, which developed the Las Vegas ads.

"We were approached by them," Vassiliadis said of Fox's affiliate sales division.

And what if the NFL intervenes?

"I don't know what (the situation) is going to be two hours from now, Saturday or Sunday," Vassiliadis said around 3 p.m. Friday. "I know the NFL has expressed concern ... and I'm not holding my breath" that the ads will air around game time.

If Fox kills the ads, Vassiliadis added he's confident the network would compensate the authority by offering time on the network's most popular programs such as "American Idol."

Ralenkotter, however, said the negotiations have changed daily, but as of Friday, he said, "We think we're there."

Vassiliadis confirmed that the past few weeks have resulted in several changes to the ad buy, most of which centered on which ads would be shown. The authority now hopes the Fox affiliates will air the first of five unseen "Vegas Stories" ads.

That 30-second spot, titled "Punch Drunk," depicts a trainer who's secretly pleased when his defeated boxer can't recall their activities from the prior evening.

"For us to be able to introduce a new spot in conjunction with the Super Bowl is great timing for us," Ralenkotter said.

Local visitors are expected to spend $101 million on nongaming goods and services this weekend. That doesn't include the untold millions that football fans will wager at Nevada's sports books and casinos before, during and after the Super Bowl.

Resorts owned by Harrah's Entertainment, MGM Mirage and Mandalay Resort Group, as well as downtown's Golden Nugget, set up football-themed VIP booths to greet customers this week at the airport, McCarran International spokeswoman Debbie Millett said Friday.

Harrah's Entertainment spokesman Gary Thompson added his company expects this weekend will bring more business to town than New Year's Eve weekend five weeks ago.

"The Super Bowl is one of the city's top events, right up there with the week after Christmas leading up to New Year's," said Thompson, whose Rio and Harrah's Las Vegas resorts host high-rolling football fans this week. "If you've ever spent a Sunday watching football in a sports book, you know it's an exciting place."

The NFL's recent crackdown on casino-related Super Bowl events has spooked some businesses in Las Vegas, one of five U.S. cities where league-hired investigators will prowl this weekend to nab anyone who violates its copyright protections. But that isn't deterring tribal casino operators from hosting for-pay football viewing events Sunday afternoon.

The Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., is using the term "Superbowl" to tout a $7.99 buffet with a 3:15 p.m. kickoff, drink specials and pregame and quarterly giveaways.

Near Spokane, Wash., the Kalispel Tribe's Northern Quest Casino has newspaper ads promoting its "Big Game Party" that uses the trademarked Super Bowl XXXIX name and includes the Fox Sports logo. It will charge patrons up to $25 to watch the "Wing Bowl" chicken eating contest, score a T-shirt and nosh at a buffet.