NFL shifts gears on casinos, Harrah’s to partner with Saints and Pels

Updated: Dec. 19, 2018 at 4:15 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A former Saints executive said the NFL has come a long way when it comes to relationships with gambling. Now the Saints have announced a new deal, naming Harrah’s New Orleans as an official casino partner.

“We can’t think of better partners than the Pelicans and the Saints,” said Harrah’s New Orleans Assistant General Manager Kathryn Jenkins.

Due in part to betting scandals going back decades involving former players like Hot Rod Williams, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras, the NFL formerly kept gambling at arm’s length. In fact, 20 years ago the Saints were fined by the NFL because the team’s publisher ran an ad for a casino in the game day program.

“Times change. It’s something that we tried to take advantage of years ago,” said former Saints President Jim Miller.

Now the Saints and Pelicans have selected Harrah’s as their first official casino partner, opening the door for unprecedented cross-promotional opportunities.

“You’ll see official watch parties at the Dome and here. We could never have an official watch party before, pre- and post-game experiences and interactive in game experiences for the fans,” said Jenkins.

The NFL has also announced partnership deals in Las Vegas, where the Raiders will soon relocate, as well as in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Though the NFL has clearly changed its position, there’s still some official concern, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement earlier this year saying: “There is no greater priority...than protecting the integrity of our sport.” He said, “Law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect our fans and penalize bad actors at home and abroad.”

“Gamblers have an interest in the outcome of an event. The closer you get, the more penetration they have,” said LSU Health criminologist Peter Scharf.

"There's no question they will step up enforcement of this issue," said Miller.

Especially since state lawmakers will once again take up sports betting in the coming year.

“I will be bringing back the bill on sports betting. Right now it’s a work in progress,” said State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie.

Last year, a sports betting bill failed to get out of committee at the Louisiana Legislature. Since then, eight other states have approved it.

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