Hard Rock casino pays Nevada $100,000 to settle ad complaint
By KEN RITTER
Associated Press Writer
LAS VEGAS – The Hard Rock hotel-casino paid a $100,000 fine Thursday to the Nevada Gaming Commission to settle a complaint over a provocative advertising campaign that state gambling regulators had deemed offensive.
The Hard Rock admitted no wrongdoing, and no new policy was set after months of debate about First Amendment freedoms and whether the Nevada gaming regulators could enforce standards of advertising “decency, dignity, good taste, honesty and inoffensiveness.”
Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard said settling the last remaining count of a three-part complaint represented an acknowledgment that hotel officials were not “candid and clear” during a Gaming Control Board investigation almost a year ago.
Lawyer Jeffrey Silver, representing the hotel, handed over the check after assuring the commission that Hard Rock management was “fully responsible for all in-house promotions and public advertising.”
The Nevada Gaming Control Board, the state gambling enforcement agency, had accused the Hard Rock of failing to maintain advertising decency with two racy ads a year ago that officials said reflected badly on the state’s largest industry.
One depicted a man and a woman on a gambling table with the caption, “There’s always a temptation to cheat.” The other read “At the Hard Rock Hotel, we believe in your Monday night rights: large quantities of prescription stimulants (and) having wives in two states.”
Other risque ads in the campaign stirred community complaints, but brought no official action from gambling regulators.
Hotel officials did not attend the meeting, and have made no pledge to refrain from producing similar ads in the future. Hard Rock President Kevin Kelley has said he had no reservations about the ad campaign or the attention it brought to the hotel, which markets itself as a cutting-edge destination for hip customers.
The Hard Rock in April agreed to pay up to $300,000 to settle all three complaints. The commission later rejected that settlement, citing problems with the language in the agreement.
In September, the commission dismissed two of the three counts, saying the board could regulate advertising conduct, but not content. Commissioners concluded that the hotel’s ads were not offering customers opportunities for cheating, polygamy and the illegal use of prescription drugs.