"Tobacco alternative" company announces major sponsorship of WSOP

Jon Pill
Posted on: September 30, 2021 09:01 PDT

The 2021 World Series of Poker (WSOP) has announced a new major sponsor. VELO produces tobacco alternatives including e-cigarettes and nicotine gum.

VELO has put up $50,000, split between the winners of the Player of The Year and No Limit leaderboards. The company's branding will appear on tables and all-in chips.

The company will also be creating "activations" (the newest buzzword for what mere mortals call "activities") as well as adverts at McCarren International which will "reach adult travelers." It will also appear in Poker Central's broadcasts and plastered about the Rio's conference center.

It's not yet clear how this will impact the Rio's smoking rules this year.

In 2019, WSOP Official Tournament rule 26 banned smoking. "No tobacco products of any kind are allowed in the Poker Room," reads the rule. "This includes cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Electronic cigarette devices can be used in specifically designated areas but never at the poker table."

This is in contrast to the general rule for Caesars Entertainment's Vegas properties. In general, Caesars allows smoking on the gaming floor, with a ban on smoking anywhere else in the property.

There have been years when the WSOP made indoor vape rooms available. However, NJoy supplied the rooms and NJoy is a competitor of VELO's. As a result, their return is likely to be up in the air at the 2021 series.

The 2021 rules have cut out any reference to smoking. The closest thing in this year's rulebook — at least as it currently stands — is a prohibition against players wearing advertising for tobacco products. This may just be an oversight. Then again, it may be that Caesars wanted to keep the smoking rules flexible depending on what VELO asked for.

The World Series and puffing

Mind you, VELO might want to lean into a smoking ban. If players can't burn a coffin nail and if vape pens are verboten, then VELO's looking at a captive audience containing thousands of smokers, all of whom are stuck with a maze of poker tables between them and their access to fresh air.

If ever there was a crowd in the market for some nicotine gum, then VELO has found it.

Modoral struck the deal with the WSOP. Moderal is in charge of marketing VELO's products in the U.S.

Modoral is a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. Although VELO specifically markets tobacco alternatives, they are very much in bed with the competition in this regard. Reynolds is part of the British American Tobacco Group -- the largest tobacco company in the world by net sales.

Apart from being big-tobacco's biggest tobacco, BAT sports the tagline "A Better Tomorrow" in its logo. Given the effect of BAT's product on human life expectancy, the company's marketing team is possessed of either a very dark sense of humor or absolutely no sense for irony.

"Interacting responsibly"

"We're constantly exploring new and different ways to elevate our presence and enhance experiences for our age twenty-one and up nicotine consumers," Leila Medeiros said. Madeiros is the Senior VP of Next Generation Products for Reynolds.

"This partnership is a natural fit for VELO," Madeiros added. "The World Series of Poker is the game's most anticipated event. It provides the perfect backdrop for VELO to give a hand to the fans and players enjoying the tournament experience while interacting responsibly with age twenty-one and up nicotine consumers."

Ty Stewart, the WSOP's Executive Director, was less specific in his praise for the deal but sounded equally enthusiastic.

"The World Series of Poker is the ultimate expression of pushing your limits to achieve your goals," Stewart said. "With VELO as a primary partner of this year's tournament, we're able to further elevate the experience for our participants and bring new life to this classic event as we return to an in-person format."

Featured image source: PR Newswire