DENVER – (Associated Press) - Organizers of the Fantasy Sports Combine are going ahead with plans for their inaugural event in Las Vegas next month in contrast to the Tony Romo-led Fantasy Football Convention that was scuttled after the NFL reiterated its policy banning active players from making promotional appearances at casinos.
The Fantasy Football Convention was slated to have more than 100 NFL players participating in autograph sessions, photo ops and fantasy-related events.
FSC founder Bo Brownstein said his business model relied not so much on the star power of current players but on seminars by former coaches Mike Shanahan and Mike Ditka and appearances by fantasy gurus such as Matthew Berry of ESPN and Drew Dinkmeyer, who won $1 million in a one-week contest in December from DraftKings.
So, Brownstein said all he had to do was replace the five active players he had lined up — Von Miller, Miles Austin, Michael Floyd, DeAngelo Williams and receiver Brandon Marshall — with recently retired football players.
“Current players was a small feature in a much bigger experience,” Brownstein said. “That feature can be easily overcome with marquee former players because their perspective is identical.”
Brownstein, who’s based in Denver, had already recruited ex-players Brandon Stokley and Kyle Orton for appearances at his conference July 17-18 at the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore.
League spokesman Brian McCarthy said the NFL “reminded the players association” of the league’s casino policy last week with the Fantasy Football Convention event scheduled for next month. The event, which was supposed to be July 10-12 in Las Vegas was subsequently canceled.
Romo, who recently joined Twitter, wrote that the league canceled the event. The Dallas quarterback said he was “sad for the fans and players.” His teammate, Dez Bryant, was critical of the NFL, tweeting “don’t understand whenever they make ... money off of us.”
In a March news release announcing the event, organizers said it would be held at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. Ron Reese, a spokesman for Las Vegas Sands Corp., said over the weekend the event was actually to be held at the Sands Expo, a convention site near the Venetian and a facility without gambling or slot machines. Organizers said they were issuing refunds and rescheduling for next summer in Los Angeles.
“The issue isn’t with the convention or fantasy football, but the location of the scheduled events at a casino,” McCarthy told The Associated Press, adding, “We also have spoken to event organizers of the Fantasy Sports Combine to let them know that current players would not be able to participate in a promotional manner at the event.”
Brownstein said he had no problem with that.
“We completely understand their policy and ultimately what they envision as priorities for their league,” he said. “And we understand the league is supportive of fantasy football and they have no problem with us using retired players and coaches that aren’t currently coaching in the NFL.”
Brownstein said he’ll keep his event at Las Vegas casinos in coming years.