After Brief Flirtation, States Seek Separation Of Colleges And Sports Betting

May 18, 2023
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Marketing alliances between U.S. sportsbooks and colleges are fast becoming taboo, with lawmakers in Louisiana and Maryland following regulators and industry groups in imposing restrictions in response to damning media coverage.

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Marketing alliances between U.S. sportsbooks and colleges are fast becoming taboo, with lawmakers in Louisiana and Maryland following regulators and industry groups in imposing restrictions in response to damning media coverage.

Louisiana and Maryland are among at least four states where lawmakers are taking legislative action to formally restrict sports-betting partnerships involving collegiate sports departments, a marketing practice that has already gone into reverse gear following recent media scrutiny.

On Wednesday (May 16), Governor Wes Moore signed Senate Bill 620 into law to prohibit Maryland’s colleges and universities from contracting with sports-betting companies if either the college or its marketing agent “receives a commission, a bonus, or any other incentive payment based on the success of securing student participation in sports wagering.”

Louisiana Senate Bill 191, meanwhile, would preclude any college or university from promoting sports wagering through a partnership with any company regulated by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.

The only exceptions would be for partnerships executed prior to the legislation taking effect, or for agreements focused on alumni networks that relate to responsible gaming initiatives.

SB 191 was last week approved by the Louisiana Senate by a vote of 35-1 and is now eligible for a final vote on the House floor after being unanimously approved by the House Education Committee on Wednesday (May 16).

Speaking before the House committee, SB 191’s author described the measure as a “belt and suspenders bill” as the restrictions align with industry standards that have already been imposed by the American Gaming Association (AGA).

“What this bill does is come back in on the flip side and says, from our standpoint, our post-secondary education institutions should not contract with the sports-wagering industry,” said Senator Gary Smith, a Democrat.

“Basically saying the sports-betting people can’t advertise on our campuses and in our stadiums; we think it’s for the best to not co-mingle those with our young people.”

Similar legislation to Louisiana’s was passed on May 3 by Connecticut’s House of Representatives and is now pending in the state Senate.

In March, a further bill to ban colleges from promoting sports betting was advanced by the New Jersey Assembly’s gaming committee.

The legislative activity responds to the series of marketing partnerships announced since late 2020 between operators Caesars, PointsBet and SuperBook, and college athletics departments in Colorado, Maryland, Michigan and Louisiana.

Those agreements drew negative publicity last November when they were highlighted by the New York Times in a highly critical article claiming that sports-betting companies had “Caesarized” college campuses.

The article quickly drew the attention of Connecticut’s U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who wrote a series of letters to Caesars, the AGA and later to colleges seeking more information about marketing partnerships and threatening to introduce federal legislation on the issue.

Colleges, NCAA In Sports-Betting Spotlight

Whether there will still be any college betting partnerships for state or federal lawmakers to prohibit remains to be seen.

Caesars’ partnership with Louisiana State University (LSU) has now ended, according to Senator Smith, who said he worked with LSU on his legislation “to make sure this didn’t jeopardize anything.”

PointsBet also recently ended its associations with the universities of Colorado and Maryland.

Members of the AGA, which do not include Caesars, PointsBet or SuperBook, have already committed via the association’s Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering not to advertise on college campuses or partner with colleges to promote any sports wagering activity.

Since November, regulators in Massachusetts and New York have also followed counterparts in Ohio and Arizona in adopting formal rules to prohibit advertising on college campuses in their states.

The various efforts to restrict advertising on university campuses may reflect broader discomfort about the nexus between college sports, student athletes and legal sports wagering.

Following recent integrity incidents in Alabama and Iowa, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) issued a statement on Wednesday to outline various initiatives it is taking regarding sports betting.

The NCAA highlighted its efforts regarding event integrity and to educate college athletes, and said it would soon release the results of a national survey on sports betting by young adults aged between 18 and 22.

Still, NCAA president Charlie Baker, who last year signed Massachusetts’ sports-betting law when serving as the state’s governor, also expressed more general concerns.

“As more states legalize sports betting and as hundreds of millions of dollars are spent advertising to young people across the nation, everyone from parents to coaches, campus leaders, state regulators and the NCAA have to work together to make sure all young people know the rules and know what problem gambling looks like,” said Baker.

“Advertisers may see this as an emerging market, but this could be an emerging threat to young people everywhere if we all don’t work together.”

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