PointsBet-Univ. of Colorado Partnership Sparks Debate About Sportsbooks and College Sports

Posted on: October 7, 2020, 01:54h. 

Last updated on: October 7, 2020, 09:33h.

A report from Sports Illustrated claims the University of Colorado stands to receive more than $1.6 million from sports betting operator PointsBet as part of a corporate sponsorship agreement the two sides announced last month.

Colorado PointsBet
Folsom Field at the University of Colorado, seen here, will soon be displaying signage for PointsBet after the sportsbook became an official partner of the school’s athletics department. (Image: CUBuffs.com)

That deal will be similar to those between sportsbooks and major professional teams. It is the first between a sportsbook and a university’s athletics department, and could be a harbinger for similar arrangements between others in the two realms.

However, a journalist and professor who has written extensively about sports betting and corruption in sports think those institutions should not come together.

You can’t run a nunnery out of a brothel,” Declan Hill told Casino.org. “You can’t have two such diametrically opposite organizations in the same place.”

Hill works as a professor of investigations at the University of New Haven’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. He was quick to point out that he doesn’t think of the NCAA as the former object in his analogy. Nor does he believe PointsBet or other sportsbooks are the latter. It’s just that the mission of collegiate athletics does not jive with gaming interests.

The Oxford-educated Hill also does not have an issue with legal sports betting. In fact, he sees the expansion of a regulated industry in the US as a good thing. He’s felt American sports betting has been highly influenced by some “very dubious characters — and that’s an insult to dubious characters everywhere,” he said, referring to the mob’s influence over it in the last hundred years.

Report: PointsBet to Pay for Referrals

The SI article notes the state’s flagship university will receive quarterly payments through June 2026. In addition, the school will receive a $30 referral fee for each new customer it sends to PointsBet, which has a headquarters based in Denver and is getting ready to open a new building later this month.

PointsBet, in return, will receive advertising space at Folsom Field, where the football team plays, and the school’s events center, home to the university’s basketball teams. Colorado will mention PointsBet in gameday promotions and during games broadcast on the Buffaloes radio network. The sportsbook will receive banner ads on websites and have the chance to take over the department’s homepage.

CU Athletic Director Rick George said he sees PointsBet as an ally and a resource. Not only will the company look to recruit students for internships and CU graduates for positions at its Denver HQ, but it’ll also serve as a partner for both responsible gaming and sports betting education.

“Gaming in college athletics is becoming more and more prevalent in states, and I think it’s going to expand moving forward,” George said. “And I think the educational piece is going to be a critical part of that. I think having a partnership with somebody like PointsBet… will help us protect the integrity of our competition and our sports.”

More Than Gaming Education Needed

Hill said PointsBet helping with responsible gaming and educating Colorado student-athletes isn’t enough. He believes athletes across the country, both collegiate and professional, should be getting that in the first place.

What might help, Hill said, is if some of the proceeds from sports betting deals were used to fund long-term healthcare for college athletes. He noted that, unlike the NFL, the NCAA does not offer that to student-athletes, even though the injuries they may suffer during their playing days linger for years.

“Because, remember what they’re being asked to do. They’re being asked to perform at their height (of their abilities) and not being recompensed in terms of salary,” Hill said. “And they’re being asked not to gamble, even though now, as they run into their stadiums… there will be signage, there will be linkage saying this is a sponsorship deal.”

College Administrators Critical of Sports Betting

The PointsBet-CU deal comes as some colleges have been lobbying state and federal lawmakers to implement bans or place more restrictions on college sports betting, fearing that the integrity of the games may be compromised.

They worry bettors may target uncompensated student-athletes and tempt them to influence the outcome of a game. Some schools, including Purdue and Butler universities in Indiana, have created policies banning students, faculty, and staff from betting on their teams and athletes.

This summer, University of Pittsburgh Athletic Director Heather Lyke testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about that, as well as concerns about player safety, saying bettors who lose a bet on a college game may target a student-athlete for threats or abuse.

Some college administrators have called for a national ban on college sports betting, and at least one US senator has expressed interest in such a bill.

That push comes as the individual states that have legalized sports wagering have taken various stances. Oregon does not allow gamblers to place bets on college games, while states like Illinois, New Jersey, and New York ban betting on in-state teams and any other collegiate games that take place in their state.

Others, like Colorado, allow betting on in-state teams.