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Kinnick ‘Hotel’ Ad Omits 'Casino'
By design, an ad for Riverside's complex does not mention gambling

William Petroski

Des Moines Register

September 8, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Des Moines Register.]

About 70,000 Iowa Hawkeye football fans on Saturday saw a large-scale video advertisement on Kinnick Stadium's main scoreboard for a $140 million gambling complex at Riverside, about 12 miles south of Iowa City.

But the advertisement, which sponsored a historic video feature of Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick scoring a touchdown, used a copywriting sleight of hand in an effort to avoid controversy.

Instead of promoting the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort, which opened a week ago, the "HawkVision" screen carried an advertisement for the "Riverside Hotel and Golf Resort," replacing the word "casino" with "hotel."

The switch was intentional, said Rick Klatt, the University of Iowa's associate athletic director. The U of I hasn't previously permitted casino advertising within Kinnick Stadium, and school administrators wanted to maintain a "comfort level" that they have historically had with stadium advertising, he said.

"I would simply say that it was our determination that we would put some limitations on them as to how they would present themselves and how they would advertise themselves and what they would advertise in that venue," Klatt said.

The stadium advertising now and in the past has complied with National Collegiate Athletic Association regulations, officials said.

The Riverside resort offers many amenities besides gambling, including a tournament golf course still under construction, a spa, several restaurants and a 201-room hotel, Klatt said. After talks with Hawkeye Sports Properties, the U of I's private multimedia partner, a decision was made to place the advertising focus on Riverside's nongambling activities, he said.

Robert Miller, a Muscatine businessman who has had Hawkeye season tickets for more than 20 years, is critical of university officials for accepting Riverside's advertising. He said it's disingenuous for school administrators to claim the ads don't promote the casino, which is expected to generate $83 million annually in gambling revenue.

"This is just another ploy. It just shows the pervasiveness of the gambling industry's efforts to invade the university and to get at the kids down there," said Miller, who is president of the Truth About Gambling Foundation, an anti-gambling group.

Klatt said university officials have permitted the Iowa Lottery to advertise at Kinnick Stadium in the past, and advertising for casinos and the Iowa Lottery has been accepted previously for Iowa Hawkeye radio broadcasts. Television advertising is a byproduct of Big 10 Conference television, and it isn't controlled by the University of Iowa, he said.

The NCAA, the governing body for college sports, doesn't restrict advertising at stadiums during regular-season games, allowing schools to develop their own policies, said Jennifer Kearns, a spokeswoman at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. But the NCAA does prohibit stadium advertisements for tobacco, gambling or alcoholic beverages during championship events, such as the Final Four basketball tournament, she said.

"We have these rules that our members have decided that are important to have at these championship venues," Kearns said.

Klatt said the University of Iowa generally tries to follow the guidelines for NCAA championship events for its stadium advertising during regular-season Hawkeye football games.

Plans call for the Riverside gambling complex to advertise at Kinnick Stadium at each of the Hawks' remaining six home games this fall. Klatt said university officials recognize the issue is sensitive and, he plans to talk about it further with athletic director Gary Barta. "My guess is that we will have a discussion about it sooner rather than later," he added.

The Des Moines Register this week requested a copy of Riverside's advertising contract with the University of Iowa, including how much money the casino is spending on Kinnick Stadium advertising. University staffers said the information could not be provided immediately because key university officials were at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., for several days this week, attending the installation of former U of I President David Skorton as Cornell's president.

Sharon Haselhoff, a publicist for the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort - which opened Aug. 31 and had more than 50,000 guests during its first four days of business - said the owners don't mind the university's restrictions, as long as they can still advertise at Kinnick.

"That is a target market for us to advertise in, and we are all about playing by the rules," Haselhoff said.

Riverside casino officials have repeatedly said they do not plan to market the casino to U of I students. Chief Executive Officer Dan Kehl pointed out in a recent interview that Iowa law prohibits people from under 21 from even entering casinos and that many students already gamble online. He said Dubuque has three colleges and two casinos, and they have coexisted successfully for years.

Casino advertising at universities
Here is a look at policies at Drake University, the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University.

UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA: UNI doesn't currently accept casino advertising at its athletic facilities or for radio or television broadcasts, but the issue is under discussion, said Leon Costello, UNI's assistant athletic director. The school in November will open its new McLeod Center for volleyball, basketball and wrestling events, and in April the $118 million Isle of Capri Casino will open nearby in Waterloo. "What we need to do is take a campuswide look at it," Costello said of the casino advertising issue. He added that the university's cabinet, which includes the president and other top officials, would need to approve any policy changes.