09/29/2006 12:00AM

NFL fans take it to the bank


There is no doubt about how big football is in this town and around the country.

If baseball is holding on to the title of "national pastime," then football has certainly exceeded it in popularity. Football is everywhere. There are more games on television, more chances to wager, and more places - legal or not - to place those wagers than ever before. There is even a cable channel that attends to even the heartiest football fanatics 24 hours a day. Football is into everything. And as the following story confirms, I mean everything.

A recent item in Liz Benston's Las Vegas Sun column reports that one Las Vegas banking institution has created a promotion based on the success of their customers' favorite NFL teams. The bank, Community One Federal Credit Union, offered a high-yield 18-month "football certificate" based on the account-holder's favorite team.

When opening a football certificate account, the customer picks a team. If the team makes it to postseason play, the credit union will add .25 percent interest to the current 5.50 percent annual percentage yield. If the team makes it to the Super Bowl, then the credit union will add another .50 percent, pushing the annual yield to 6.25 percent.

Community One called it the no-risk football bet for fans of the game. Although the promotion closed with the beginning of the regular NFL season, Community One certainly got the intended attention from football fans, and, more importantly, a lot more publicity for the bank than the promotional cost of the offer.

As reported in the column, the Community One vice president of strategic planning, Sherry Farris, wanted to find a "fun" promotion and said that Las Vegas was the right market for this type of product. Of course, groundwork by the bank's legal counsel and a check with the Nevada Gaming Commission and the National Credit Union Administration were required to offer the promotion.

Noting the sensitivity of the NFL's relationship with Las Vegas, the credit union decided to sidestep the trademark phrase of Super Bowl by calling it the "professional football championship in Miami."

And, Ferris added, this promotion is not like placing a bet.

"It's not gambling," she told the Sun. "There is no possibility of loss due to your investment."

Wish I could say the same about my last four-teamer.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.