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VIDEO VAULT: Gambling wasn't always allowed in Las Vegas commercials

Continental Hotel Early 1990s.jpg

Casino advertising is taken for granted today on TV, radio, in print and online.

25 years ago, gambling was not allowed to be featured in commercials.

"Before a television commercial for a hotel/casino ever hits the air in Nevada, the videotape is closely screened. The mere suggestion of gambling means the ad gets rejected," reported News3's Scott Andrus on May 5, 1992.

"They would just advertise room rates, or they might have a restaurant that they might feature or if there was some show like 'Siegfried and Roy' or something, they might do something like that," explains ad man Jerry Wayne, who worked for the agency Ron Bell and Associates in the early 1990s.

One of Bell's clients was the Continental Hotel and Casino. Wayne knew that the Federal Communications Commission prohibited gaming ads but he wanted something unique which would still speak to the issue.

"I remembered an old movie with Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers called 'The Gay Divorcee'," recounts Wayne. "And there was a song or a dance called The Continental.”

"It has a passion, the Continental. An invitation to moonlight and romance. It's quite the fashion, the Continental. Because you tell of your love while you dance," sang Rogers to Astaire in the 1934 musical.

From the 1930s to the 1980s.

"Do the Continental Hotel," sang a production vocal team over video of actors in 30s garb.

A local dance team created the mood, with one character, in particular, making a subtle suggestion of the action inside.

"It was a period piece, so he had a visor on and bands on his arms and an apron," says Wayne. "And he had cards. So you knew he was a dealer."

That commercial was also used as part of a legal campaign by TV station KVBC (now KSNV), aimed at the contradictions and capriciousness of FCC regulations.

"At the time, there was Indian Gaming," explains Wayne. "You started to see slots advertised on television. And I think that was part of the argument for the lobbying effort to allow gaming of other kinds."

Channel 3 took the issue to court and won. TV and radio stations no longer had to dance around the issue, touting cheap rooms and good shows.

"Some people believe that's how resorts make their money," reported News 3's Katie Harris On April 16, 1993 after the decision. "It's not. Casinos make resorts money. And with this ruling, you're likely to see more advertisements for casinos and fewer advertisements for food."

That's why for a couple of decades now, hotel/casinos have been advertising casino action.

The Continental later became Terrible's Herbst's Hotel and Casino, and is now the Silver Sevens.

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