NFL won't block Vegas ads

Updated: December 16, 2009, 8:16 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The NFL will allow advertising for Las Vegas on game telecasts this postseason, including the Super Bowl.

Under the modified policy, tourist destinations that allow gambling, such as Las Vegas, Reno or Lake Tahoe in Nevada, will now be permitted to advertise during NFL games from Jan. 4, 2010, to Feb. 28, 2010. After that, the league will determine whether to extend the new rules into next season or go back to the old ones banning such ads.

The NFL regular season ends Jan. 3. The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 7 in Miami.

The league will still prohibit ads for specific hotels, casinos and other institutions. Also, the new ads may not contain any gambling references or imagery.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the NFL considers it "a reasonable modification of our policy that still protects our interests."

"We notified our network partners that we will not object to ads airing during our games for any tourism destination, including Las Vegas," McCarthy added.

Content of the ads must comply with the networks' standards and practices and also meet NFL standards for a mass audience.

The NFL has blocked attempts by Las Vegas to advertise on the Super Bowl, not wanting any association with gambling in commercials. In 2004, tourism officials in Las Vegas bought Super Bowl ad time from CBS affiliates instead of the network.

"We were not pleased and we let CBS know," McCarthy said then.

Under the policy modification, ads for Las Vegas tourism with pictures of golf, swimming pools and entertainers would be permitted. An ad with footage of slot machines, dice, cards or a wide shot of the Las Vegas strip and casinos would not be permitted.

Howard Lefkowitz, president and CEO of travel Web site Vegas.com, said his company planned to place ads during the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl.

"We're very excited about this window of opportunity," he said. "NFL fans come to Vegas and Vegas fans are NFL fans."

Rossi Ralenkotter, chief executive of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said it would evaluate available advertising slots and its budget and try to place ads.

"It's a great development for the destination. This is going to be a key avenue and opportunity for us to target the NFL market," Ralenkotter said. "We've always had the belief that we should be given the opportunity to advertise during regular-season games in the NFL, as well as postseason and the Super Bowl."

The agency, a public-private partnership funded in part by Las Vegas casino-resorts, spends about $85 million per year on advertising. Ads from its popular "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" campaign would still be banned under the modified policy.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press