Sex sells, but please don’t sell sex

Posted on: February 21, 2011

In 2004, the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas came under fire from the Gaming Control Board because of their racy marketing campaigns, alleged drug use/sales in the nightclubs, and allegations that the casino/nightclub executives facilitated sexual encounters in hotel rooms for guests. In a town best known for the slogan, “what happens here, stays here,” it is a bit of a contradiction that a property would get in so much trouble for selling the “image” that Vegas has been trying to sell for so long.

Convention and Visitors Authority Logo for What Happens Here, Stays Here

So, let’s examine what got the Hard Rock in trouble. The following advertisement was released about 7 years ago by the Hard Rock Hotel.

Hard Rock Advertisement

There are several things to note about this ad. First, the tagline, “there’s always a temptation to cheat.” This could imply that the man is cheating on his wife/girlfriend or vice versa, or that the couple is cheating at the blackjack table. The ad also features several vices: drinking, smoking, sex, and gambling. Part of the issue the GCB had with this ad was that it was borderline pornography. You also are not allowed to advertise illegal activity, ie, cheating at gambling – whether that is actually what is being portrayed here or not. So, “what happens here stays here” clearly does not apply in this case. Let’s look at another Hard Rock ad:

Hard Rock Billboard

The tagline in this ad is, “get ready to buck all night.”  This ad was intended to target the National Rodeo Finals visitors, instead it attracted negative attention from regulators. This is clearly a racy ad, however once again, in a town that has built their reputation on “what happens here stays here” it seems contradictory to come down so hard against the Hard Rock in this instance. I think in the end it was the collection of advertisements that got them in trouble, along with the allegations of inappropriate sexual activity and drug use. The Gaming Commission agreed, and rejected the suit by the GCB. The issue was more regarding free speech than it was about obscenity. I tend to agree with the Commission. Unless there is outright nudity being shown, it is difficult to argue against this kind of image portrayal. Illegal activities such as illicit sexual activity and drug use should be dealt with as a separate matter than R-rated advertisements.

Hard Rock’s response to the suits:

Bravo Hard Rock, Bravo.


1 Response to "Sex sells, but please don’t sell sex"

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by miriamgomberg, erinwootan. erinwootan said: Sex sells, but please don’t sell sex […]

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This blog is devoted to the gaming industry news and information - keeping you up to date on the happenings in the gaming world. My personal expertise lies in event planning and entertainment in casinos.

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