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Senator Seeks Details of Schools’ Deals With Betting Companies

by Staff

Pressure is continuing to build upon colleges and universities that have partnerships with sports betting companies.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, announced on Monday that he sent a letter to 66 of the country’s colleges and universities with the largest athletic budgets, demanding information about their efforts to form partnerships with sports betting companies, as well as what the schools are doing to prevent underage betting and to combat gambling addiction.

“The opportunity for lucrative deals has caused some casinos and sportsbooks to target universities, despite the very real harm gambling poses to students, many under the age to legally gamble,” Senator Blumenthal wrote. He spoke about the letter during an appearance with the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling.

Blumenthal’s letter comes after a New York Times investigation into the increasing presence of sports betting on college campuses across the country. That investigation found that at least eight universities had partnered with online sports betting companies and more than a dozen athletic departments and booster clubs had agreements with brick-and-mortar casinos.

After the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision that struck down the federal prohibition against sports betting in most states, gambling companies began vast marketing campaigns to attract fantasy sports players and online gamers to their services. Some of the companies targeted major universities, whose sports-crazy alumni and students represented a large potential market.

In 2021, for example, Caesars Sportsbook offered Michigan State a deal worth $8.4 million over five years to promote betting to the university community, including “Caesarizing” the tailgating space outside Spartan Stadium. A member of the negotiating team called it “the largest sportsbook deal in college athletics.”

Betting companies have said they do not address their marketing messages to people under 21 years old, but the partnerships have raised questions about whether promoting gambling on campus conflicts with the aims of higher education.

In one instance, Louisiana State sent an email to students under legal betting age promising free bets. The university later said that the email was sent to those students in error.

The letter cited Michigan State’s agreement with Caesars Sportsbook, which provides just $25,000 to educate athletes about gambling and no money to address problem gambling by other students.

The letter from Senator Blumenthal gives the universities and colleges one month to provide information about the terms of sports betting contracts, correspondence with various gambling entities and the amount of money the school anticipates to earn, among other information.

Louisiana State and Michigan State did not immediately respond to questions about whether they would comply with Senator Blumenthal’s information request.

Some schools have already begun modifying their sports betting agreements in response to news media attention and pressure from lawmakers. In January, the University of Colorado Boulder modified its agreement with PointsBet to remove a referral bonus. Previously, the university received $30 every time somebody signed up for PointsBet with the university’s promo code and placed a bet.

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