GREEN BAY -- The NFL doesn't want to see more people betting on its games, but the League is becoming more open to other types of gambling -- specifically, casinos. This season, for the first time, NFL teams can have casino ads at their stadiums.
Gambling and football have a long history. Case in point: 1946. The New York Giants played the Chicago Bears in the NFL Championship game. Before the big game, a gambler tried to ensure a Bears win by offering bribes to two Giants players.
Packers fans will no doubt remember 1963. That's when the NFL suspended star running back Paul Hornung for betting on NFL games and associating with gamblers. Hornung admitted his mistake and apologized. Lions star Alex Karras was also suspended.
Today, its not players but the League itself associated with a form of gambling: casinos.
St. Norbert College economics professor Kevin Quinn says the NFL is trying to balance the integrity of the game with a desire to make more money.
It was just three years ago that teams like the Packers started sponsoring state lottery games. In 2010, teams were allowed to run ads for the city of Las Vegas, as long as there were no references to gambling.
Now, new for this season, fans walking through stadiums will see ads for some casinos.
"The one thing leagues are concerned about is the possibility of gambling affecting the play on the field because if a game looks fixed, bad news. The lottery is not likely to do that. Slot machines are not likely to do that," Quinn said.
The Oneida Nation is taking advantage of the new NFL rules.
"Very excited. This is an opportunity where we both get to capitalize. We're both successful entertainment venues," Louise Cornelius, Gaming General Manager at Oneida Casino said.
Cornelius says there will be 18 advertising panels at the stadium and a full page ad for the casino in the team program.
"In our situation, what this has allowed us to do is work closer with our long-term partner the Oneida nation," Packers Director of Marketing Craig Benzel said.
There are still some restrictions on casino ads under the new, two-year policy. The ads are only allowed on radio broadcasts, magazines and signs inside the stadium.
Benzel says the team won't have any radio ads for now. The NFL stills bans casino ads during television broadcasts.
"I think it's a little bit of an evolution. This is our first opportunity to expand some of those opportunities. We'll take a look at it, evaluate it at the end of this year and next year and see if there are maybe opportunities to expand from there," Benzel said.
"At this point in time, we're just excited about the fact that they've lifted the rules and they're allowing us to consider this," Cornelius said.
All of the casino ads must feature a message urging people to gamble responsibly.
Rose Gruber is with the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling. She doesn't expect the new ads to lead to an increase in problem gamblers.
"For most people, they're always going to be social gamblers. Seeing more advertisements isn't going to do a thing for them. It's not going to make them run out and go gambling more," Gruber said.
The NFL still wants to keep its distance from people betting on games, so casinos that offer sports gambling are still not allowed to advertise with NFL teams. The League also wants the ads targeted at adults.
"Targeting the right audience and then also making sure that you are having that responsible gambling message tied to it," Benzel said.
"Casino gambling, particularly slot machines and table games, have really become far more accepted forms of entertainment than they were even 10 years ago, and I think this liberalization is just reflective of that," Quinn said.
Quinn says the league is right to make a distinction between regular casinos and those with sports books.
"The leagues are rightly concerned that if there's too much sports gambling that the opportunities for throwing games will get bad. I think they're right to be worried about that. Grandma going and dropping a few quarters at the casino and coming up three lemons, I don't think they're as worried about that as they once were," Quinn said.
While the new rules only last for two years, it is likely the NFL will continue with some form of gambling ads well into the future.