Sports betting companies asked to revisit question of campus advertising

December 8, 2022

A major investigation by the New York Times has had significant fallout for sports betting providers in the states that have legalized sports betting this week. The investigation, which looked into the effects of lobbying in the legislative process and at the potential impacts of legalized betting, took a particular look at the impacts that legal changes could have on college and university campuses throughout America, with particular repercussions for four schools which may have to revisit their corporate arrangements.

The named schools were Louisiana State University, University of Colorada, Michigan State and the University of Maryland, all of which are in states that have recently allowed sports betting for residents. In the aftermath of the NYT report, Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal has written to the President of Caesars’ Entertainment and to the head of the American Gaming Association to express his concerns at the potential harms that could be caused to college students by on-campus advertising of betting companies.

Caesars’ became the first betting company to ink an agreement with an American university when it struck a deal with LSU to sponsor its college football team, the LSU Tigers. Earlier this year, it reached a similar agreement with Michigan for partial stadium naming rights. Around the same time, Pointsbet also entered the arena with its agreements in Colorado and Maryland.

It is not expected at present that the schools and sportsbooks concerned will end their existing agreements, but the recent developments have opened up some fissures regarding what sportsbook providers are prepared to do to promote their services. Companies such as BetMGM, DraftKIngs and FanDuel have specified that they will not be making any partnerships with colleges or universities, citing concerns similar to those mentioned by Senator Blumenthal; namely that college students are vulnerable to problem gambling and that on-campus advertising increases that risk.

Additionally, some states which have passed new gambling legislation have included within their laws a requirement that universities and colleges are protected from aggressive promotion of sports betting. The recently-agreed bill bringing sports betting to Massachusetts includes within it a provision that state college sporting teams will not be included in betting markets with the specific exception of nationally-promoted NCAA playoff competition. New Jersey, whose victory at the Supreme Court permitted sports betting to be legalized on a state-by-state basis, has a blanket ban on collegiate sports betting, while other states have varying degrees of restriction on such betting.

While it is doubtful that the relevant colleges and sportsbooks will end their existing agreements prematurely, it may well be that the recent focus on such agreements will lead in due course to specific legal provisions being brought forward to prevent any more deals of this sort being signed. In the meantime, this will likely start a conversation on how best to mitigate the potential harms that could arise from on-campus promotion of betting products, as more lawmakers are certain to have opinions on the topic that match or compete with those expressed by Sen Blumenthal.

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