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Barrier Between Pro Sports and Gaming Develops Cracks

29 July 2009

The professional sports world has always kept a safe distance from any connection with gambling, but there are signs that the barrier is beginning to weaken under the pressure of the sagging economy.

Last month, National Football League owners voted to permit teams to sign licensing agreements with state-sponsored lotteries.

Franchises in other pro sports leagues, including MLB, NBA and NHL, have done similar agreements with lotteries, but this is ground breaking for the NFL.

The New England Patriots jumped on the bandwagon the day after it was signed, inking a deal with the Massachusetts State Lottery for a Patriots-themed instant ticket.

Next on board came the Washington Redskins and the Virginia Lottery. Other teams are expected to follow suit.

There are even indications in the Chicago area that the pressure of seeking new revenue flow is forcing some to look for money where they never expected.

The famous Budweiser billboard that had a high profile presence for so many years on the left field roof top across the street from Wrigley Field was replaced this year with Horseshoe Casino Hammond and the brand's distinctive golden horseshoe logo.

Horseshoe itself has partnered with the Chicago Bulls for naming rights since 2007. The brand has a highly visible presence in the visiting team locker room.

Earlier this year, Potawatomi Bingo Casino was announced as the presenting sponsor for the Milwaukee Brewers, a first for a major league franchise in Wisconsin sports history.

The partnership, which is referred to as "Milwaukee Brewers Baseball presented by Potawatomi Bingo Casino" entitles Potawatomi to local advertising and marketing rights on radio and print material, in-stadium signage (including the home and visiting dugout tops), and sponsorship on regular season game tickets.

"Miller Park is just two minutes down the road from Potawatomi, and I think that feeds into our relationship," said Ryan Amundson, the casino's external communications manager.

It was a gamble that Brewers management was willing to make, and apparently one that is paying off.

"We are very well aware of the guidelines that major league baseball has for what you can and cannot do with a casino," said Tyler Barnes, the team's vice-president of communications. "There's certainly plenty of room to work and build a partnership that's good for both entities."

In light of the fact the rivalry between the Cubs and Brewers has intensified in recent years, Potawatomi is deriving some long distance fringe marketing benefits.

"It's a rivalry in which both fan bases travel in significant numbers, creating an opportunity to have tourists from both cities get involved in seeing their teams on the road," Barnes said.

It isn't as if you'll soon be seeing slot machines and gaming tables in the concourses of pro sports parks and arenas any time soon, but it is becoming obvious that gaming's main stream presence as an entertainment option is making pro sports take a second look.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp