The online casino and sports betting establishment erected a billboard on Sept. 1 in order to promote four $100,000 contests that are running throughout the fall. As part of the gimmick, the company placed $100,000 in one-dollar bills in a Plexiglas box and assigned security guards to guard the cash.
It was a stunt begging for trouble. And trouble it found. At about 3 a.m. Pacific time today, while an armed guard took a 10- to 15-minute break, someone successfully broke into the box and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
No one interviewed seemed able to provide an explanation why the guard was away. Adding a whiff of orchestrated publicity stunt to the event -- something the company vehemently denies -- Sportsbook.com's own oddsmakers had offered 6-to-1 odds the money would be stolen from the billboard, which was located on Las Vegas Boulevard South. Still, the company said that it had set up the odds to discourage theft.
"We realize there was a certain amount of risk involved," said Alex Czajkowski, Sportsbook.com's marketing director. "But we really didn't think the money would be stolen, so we offered smaller odds and we mitigated the risk [of encouraging a theft] by setting the maximum bet of $100. It's not quite enough money to make the winner a potential suspect if the money did get stolen."
Enjoying the buzz
While the company said the theft was not planned for PR value, it doesn't deny it's enjoying the buzz in the press, much of which has been generated by quickly fired press releases and statements through its PR firm, RLM Public Relations. Mr. Czajkowski had hoped the billboard would generate some buzz on its own, but he notes that the robbery does add "some impetus to the campaign."
"I do plan to keep the billboard up," he added, "and maybe change the art. I haven't decided about the money yet, but I will listen to the police about their recommendations."
At press time, the Las Vegas Police Department had apprehended suspects but was not available for comment.