Vegas tourism ad contract up for review, renewal

LAS VEGAS (AP) " Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority administrators are considering renewing the contract with the consulting firm that developed the "What happens here, stays here" ad campaign in 2003.

Officials say that while there is no specific dollar figure applied to the contract with R&R Partners, the authority will consider a proposal Tuesday that could boost its value from $88 million this year to $91.2 million in the next fiscal year.

R&R chief Billy Vassiliadis promised a thorough review of the value of the deal, which covers a scope of services funded through the authority's marketing budget.

"We'll show you Tuesday what we earned, how it is earned," he said.

In addition to creating television ads and buying broadcast airtime, the contract covers strategic planning, sponsorships and promotion of special events. The services are on top of some $33.7 million in-house sales and marketing by the authority.

In recent months, the relationship between R&R and the authority has come under scrutiny, primarily from the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative Las Vegas group that opposes the convention authority.

"The fundamental issue here is the people's right to know how the government is spending their money," said Andy Matthews, spokesman for the institute. "That issue is especially important today."

The institute counts former Las Vegas Sands executive William Weidner, an outspoken conservative business opponent of the convention authority, on its board of directors.

Supporters of the Las Vegas marketing machine describe the cost of the R&R contract as the price of attracting some 39 million people to Las Vegas per year, and keeping some 140,000 hotel rooms 90 percent occupied.

Critics say while the ads may be popular, the nearly three decade relationship between R&R and the authority is too close. They want an outside audit and open bidding for a new contract.

The institute says resorts could pick up more of the cost of marketing Las Vegas without using a cut of the hotel room taxes.


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