NFL's 2003 ban on Las Vegas ads a distant memory as betting wins out

NFL’s 2003 ban on Las Vegas ads a distant memory as betting wins out

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Oh, how times have changed in the world of professional sports.

As the National Football League gears up for tonight’s season-opener between the 2021-22 champion Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills, gambling on games is the new normal. The Rams are 2 1/2-point underdogs to a Bills team that narrowly missed going to the Super Bowl last season.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the NFL rejected Super Bowl ads from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). In those days, the league preferred to turn down the ads rather than get cozy with “Sin City.” The NFL would have pocketed somewhere between $2.1 million and $2.4 million per ad. Those ads now cost about $6.5 million.

The league offered little explanation, but NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Associated Press, “The NFL has a long-standing policy that prohibits the acceptance of any message that makes reference to or mention of sports betting.”

The NFL’s decision prompted an absolute uproar in Las Vegas. Then-mayor Oscar Goodman called it “a slap in our face” and “hypocrisy at its highest.” He even threatened a lawsuit.

That was 2003. The league changed direction and Las Vegas ads were welcomed for playoff games and the Super Bowl in 2010.

Carolyn G. Goodman took over the mayor’s office in 2011, and the prospect of pro sports in Las Vegas grew. By 2016, when the Raiders were looking for a new home, it was a stadium that stood as the biggest barrier to the NFL in Las Vegas — not betting.

These days, it’s impossible to watch an NFL game without a deluge of advertising from companies that want to take your bets.

A press release Thursday hailed BetMGM’s brand new sportsbook — at the Arizona Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium. “BetMGM shares the Arizona Cardinals’ vision in pursuing new ways to break barriers and entertain fans,” said BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt.

Casino companies have spent billions as they position themselves for what is seen as the biggest new revenue stream in gambling. Every company wants a piece of the action. In-game betting is the next big hurdle as gaming companies keep expanding the options and possibilities of betting that was once scorned.

There’s no longer a hesitation to talk about point spreads on NFL broadcasts, and a betting scandal involving Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley created the smallest of ripples when he was ultimately banned for the 2022 season.

Integrity is still “fundamental to the NFL’s success,” according to Commissioner Roger Goodell, but betting is no longer seen as a threat.

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