Come fall, Lincoln Financial Field may embrace more than just the Eagles and their legion of fans. For the first time, ads for Parx, SugarHouse, and the region's other casinos likely will grace the Linc, too, thanks to the NFL's reversal of a long-standing policy.
Under rules set last week that allow the 32 NFL teams to tap into the $35 billion-a-year U.S. commercial casino industry, advertisements for gambling halls will be permitted on signs in stadiums, in game programs and brochures, and on local radio broadcasts - though not ads for a particular game such as slots or blackjack, or promotions such as a tournament.
"This is a good thing for us," Eagles president Joe Banner said Friday. "We are positioned to have a lot of interest."
Geographically, that's certainly true. The Linc is surrounded by casinos: four in Philadelphia and its immediate suburbs, one in Bethlehem, three in Delaware, and an additional dozen 60 miles away in Atlantic City - perhaps more than any other NFL arena, Banner said.
And with the national exposure the Eagles get, several casinos are already champing at the bit to have their names emblazoned in the upper bowl and inner concourses at the Linc.
"As Philly's casino, SugarHouse 'bleeds green,' so we would welcome the opportunity to work with the Eagles," general manager Wendy Hamilton said.
Said Darlene Monzo, vice president of marketing at Parx in Bensalem, Pennsylvania's top-grossing casino: "Our customers are definitely Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants and Jets fans, so this would be a natural fit."
Since 1993, NFL teams have accepted advertising for horse- and dog-racing tracks, municipal lotteries, and off-track-betting organizations, provided they offered no betting schemes based on actual sports events.
Three years ago, the league modified its policy so clubs could work with state-run scratch-off lotteries, which simply use team logos.
Since the 2010 season, clubs have been permitted to accept advertising for the city of Las Vegas, provided the ads did not refer to or depict gambling or casinos.
Under the new rules, casinos may not use team logos in ads and may not be team sponsors; teams cannot sell stadium naming rights or seating sections to casinos.
And those with sports books, where bets are taken on the outcome of games, are excluded from advertising.
"It's consistent with league history," Banner said of the latest change made Thursday, "so we're kind of dipping our toes in. It's a good approach to testing it and finding out the level of interest on the other side . . . and how people feel about it."
According to the American Gaming Association, there are now commercial or tribal casinos in 38 of the 50 states.
"This is another example of the NFL prudently opening up new business opportunities," said New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, whose team shares the Meadowlands Complex in East Rutherford, N.J., with the New York Giants. "We will treat this as we do all potential new business and explore it thoughtfully."
Each New York team told the New York Post last month that an additional $5 million could pour into its coffers from casino ads. On Friday, Banner said it was too early to estimate how much the Eagles stood to make.
"Price will be a function of demand, as well as the value of the assets that we are able to provide these companies to market themselves," he said. "My most aggressive salespeople will be on the phone today."
Other professional sports leagues have accepted casino ads or had partnerships with them for years.
Major League Baseball's advertising and sponsorship relationships with casinos date back to the 1980s, MLB spokesman Matt Bourne said.
"Since we have rules that govern the kinds of activities that can take place, we have not encountered any significant issues," he said.
Locally, SugarHouse plays host to the Phillies' PHL17 postgame shows.
On the Flyers' Jumbotron, SugarHouse Phil, an animated character, throws dice on a craps table, and fans sitting in the lucky section win prizes. The casino runs a similar promotion with the 76ers with an animated Slot Machine, where the reels spin to reveal prizes for a winning section.
There can be no such promotions with NFL teams under the league's rules. No employees of the NFL and its teams, including coaches and players, can endorse or appear in ads for any form of gambling. All ads must include a responsible-gambling message, and advertisers must contribute money to the league's gambling-education and related programs.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the policy would be reviewed after two years.
One thing that hasn't changed, he said: "Our position on sports gambling. We have a long-held, unwavering opposition to gambling on NFL games."
But proponents of sports betting say the NFL's about-face on casino ads is counter to that position. Under federal law, only Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware are allowed to offer sports betting.
"Obviously, the NFL can't claim any moral certitude to its opposition to sports betting any longer," said New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak (D., Union), who sponsored a bill to allow sports betting at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks that passed in January and who is behind an effort to overturn the federal ban. "It's a further example of the hypocrisy of the NFL."
Countered McCarthy: "There is a distinction between a casino where one plays roulette or blackjack and betting on the outcome of a sporting event."
Any casino advertising with an NFL team can't have a sports book. That applies to firms such as Caesars Entertainment Inc. and its nine gambling halls in Las Vegas.
Yet Caesars' operations in this area - its four casinos in Atlantic City and Harrah's in Chester - will be able to advertise because they have no sports books.
The requirement: Their ads must clearly be about the local establishments, not the ones in Las Vegas.
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