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The Short-Lived Marriage Of Gambling Companies And College Sponsorships

Amidst gambling scandals and controversial advertising, many college-sportsbook partnerships have ended. And perhaps for good reasons.

the trend of college and sports betting relationships end
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Katarina Vojvodic Avatar
5 mins read

After the Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 to let states legally promote sports gambling on campuses, many things have changed. To start, leading gambling companies in the US have been competing to turn traditional casino players and sports fans into online bettors.

In doing so, they even targeted educational institutions and campuses to help them better promote online casinos and sportsbooks. So far, several universities already partnered with online gambling companies, with more expected to come.

With all the attractive bonus offers coming from sportsbook operators, it is sometimes hard to ignore these deals. Recent gambling scandals in Alabama and Iowa even led to teams, athletes, and coaches being investigated by state gambling officials.

What is also noticeable, however, is that throughout this year, many college partnerships have come to an end. And it happened with good reason.

PointsBet ends the University of Maryland betting agreement

PointsBet decided it was time to say goodbye to the University of Maryland at College Park. The agreement was terminated when MD sportsbooks had only been live in the state for six months.

The official termination of the deal, signed in December 2021, came in late April. PointsBet ended further promotions, including ads on campus and digital marketing.

The actual agreement between PointsBet and the UMD was through Playfly Sports. Legal Sports Report wrote it was announced in late April, PointsBet said: “PointsBet and Playfly Sports have reached a mutual agreement to end their sponsorship at the University of Maryland.”

The companies haven’t stated the reasons for terminating their agreement. But the announcement came as potential legislation in Maryland could further change the state’s college betting landscape.

If signed into law, a Maryland bill (SB620) would add further restrictions that would eventually bring the PointsBet Maryland deal to an end. The bill now resides at the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.

The University of Colorado and PointsBet canceled their 5-year deal

Maryland wasn’t the only state PointsBet announced its withdrawal. The company withdrew its gambling license application from Massachusetts in February, only a few weeks before the scheduled launch.

In March, PointsBet announced it was ending its partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder (UC-Boulder).

The companies decided it was time to end their five-year $1.6 million deal originally signed in September 2020. According to the agreement, the US sportsbook was an official gambling partner of the school’s athletic department.

PointsBet appeared at Folsom Field, a home field of the Colorado Buffaloes football team. The operator also frequently occurred in the radio and television broadcasts of the games.

For a certain time, PointsBet was even giving $30 to the University of Colorado every time a player downloaded the app and signed up with a referral code.

Michigan State University petitions to end Caesars college sports betting deal

A group of Michigan State professors requested that Michigan State University (MSU) ends its sponsorship with Caesars Sportsbook.

Led by Community Sustainability Professor John Kerr, around 300 people have signed a petition that a faculty group at MSU started in 2020. The April petition states that “MSU should immediately terminate its agreement with Caesars.”

Caesars has been offering special bonuses related to MSU sporting events on its sportsbook platform.

Recent college betting scandals leading to the investigation

Last week, Alabama fired head baseball coach Brad Bohannon due to a connection with the betting activity. Bohannon was reportedly on the phone with someone inside the casino related to Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds.

Sportsbook surveillance allegedly captured a bettor contacting Bohannon in late April. The player placed two bets on LSU beating Alabama. As soon as the Ohio Casino Control Commission was alerted, the regulator stopped all betting on Alabama baseball games. Another suspicious activity occurred during the game in Indiana.

During the same week, the University of Iowa was “notified of potential criminal conduct” related to sports betting, suggesting possible NCAA violations. Several student-athletes from Iowa and Iowa State were investigated due to gambling allegations. The school announced 111 individuals were involved in the investigation, including 26 current student-athletes from:

  • Men’s Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Men’s track and field
  • Men’s Wrestling

There was also one full-time employee of the UI Department of Athletics. The university said most individuals were student-staff, former student-athletes, or those with no connection to UI Athletics. The list does not comprise any current or former coaches.

Iowa State notified the NCAA that approximately 15 athletes on the football, wrestling and track and field teams likely violated NCAA rules.

The positive thing, however, is that these scandals wouldn’t have been caught if they hadn’t occurred in the regulated gambling markets.

Several attempts to ease gambling sponsorship deals

Even before these scandals occurred, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, has been very active when it comes to facing issues related to the college sports industry. He sent an open letter to 66 colleges and universities, asking about the resources they provide for students struggling with gambling.

His inquiries also include information about any current or potential collaborations these schools have with sportsbooks. Furthermore, Blumenthal wanted to know what these educational institutions plan to do to fight problem gambling among students.

Connecticut’s legislature is now considering forbidding institutions from marketing sports betting to students. The state’s proposal, HB 5232, aims to bar higher education establishments from receiving money for targeting students to gamble online.

HB5232 would still allow public universities to accept sponsorships from Connecticut sportsbooks but not market gambling to students directly. Likewise, a bill to legalize sports betting in Vermont could ban sportsbook commercials on college campuses.

Last month, the American Gaming Association (AGA) updated its marketing guidelines. AGA revised its Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering. The new code now bans “college partnerships that promote, market or advertise sports wagering activity” and “sportsbook NIL deals for amateur and college athletes.”

College sportsbook sponsorships face too many challenges

Higher educational institutions keep signing agreements with third-party companies paid to execute sponsorships on schools’ behalf. These kinds of partnerships allow sportsbooks to promote their brands in college stadiums and gyms. In return, universities and colleges receive millions of dollars.

Radio and TV broadcasts repeatedly feature sportsbook ads and within athletic departments. More so than ever, it is almost impossible not to see these ads. Betting is constantly present.

Through partnerships with sportsbooks, universities tend to educate students on how to place sports bets and gamble responsibly. Still, there are many risks to consider. Gambling companies are attracting young college students, some of whom may be vulnerable to developing gambling addictions.

With gambling scandals leading to investigations due to alleged gambling violations, it makes us all wonder should gambling companies even have sponsorship deals with colleges. The answer is simple, and US sportsbooks are not going to like it.

Since these sponsorship deals likely won’t end, we can only hope that more US states will legalize and regulate gambling within their jurisdictions. The regulation will help them protect gamblers and prevent (or at least lessen) suspicious wagering activities.

Katarina Vojvodic Avatar
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Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

View all posts by Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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