Colorado Buffaloes Deal With PointsBet First of Its Kind

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:

There has long been a concern over the integrity of college sports where gambling is thrown into the mix.  This has some worried over a deal announced this week between a Colorado university and sports wagering firm PointsBet.

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Learfield IMG College, the media rights holder of University of Colorado Athletics, and Australian sports wagering company PointsBet signed a five-year corporate sponsorship agreement Tuesday that makes PointsBet a partner of the Colorado Buffaloes, a team that will not be playing this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Riddick of BettingUSA.com writes:

The truth is, the deal has the potential to be a terrific step forward for legal sports betting in the US, but it also has the potential to be problematic. As is so often the case, the devil is in the details.

The deal encompasses widespread advertising through use of signage and billboards across the University of Colorado campus.

Billboards and sportsbook advertisements are going to exist and reach the eyes and ears of CU students, with or without the PointsBet deal. For instance, PointsBet is also the official and exclusive partner of the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Mammoth, and the Pepsi Center. So, unless students only watch CU Buffalo games, they’re going to be exposed to it.

With that in mind, if this, as it appears to be, is a relational deal, it could very well usher in a new era of responsibility.

The deal appears to conflict with the NCAA's own stance as it applies to gambling.

"Sports betting has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the well-being of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.’”

For its part, CU says it consulted with the NCAA prior to the deal.

“We certainly talked to the NCAA and we talked to the Pac-12 (conference) prior to us coming to an agreement on this,” Rick George, CU’s athletic director, said during a Tuesday conference call. “If you look at (peer schools), there are casinos that are (adjacent to collegiate) venues, some in our league and some in other leagues. So yeah, we thought it was important that we should make sure and reach out to the Pac-12 and to the NCAA prior to moving forward on this.”

Back in March of 2019, NCAA executive Mark Emmert said "Sports wagering is going to have a dramatic impact on everything we do in college sports. It's going to threaten the integrity of college sports in many ways unless we are willing to act boldly and strongly."

So what changed?

Covid happened. 

Chris Burt of University Business:

(But) given the financial fallout impacting colleges and universities and their athletics programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems to be relaxing restrictions when it comes to sponsorships. Among them might be the allowance of creative deals by more higher education institutions in states where sports betting is legal, such as Colorado.

He adds:

If the Colorado deal is a sign of things to come, expect athletics departments, which are often represented by entities in corporate sponsorship deals – in this case Buffalo Sports Properties – to be able to package deals that go beyond gaming and betting to provide access for students and fans to engage in free-to-play games and daily fantasy sports. In return, expect those partners to have their brands emblazoned on signage throughout campus and offsite venues.

One more key selling point to universities in forging a sponsorship deal with a sports betting agency is that it could, believe it or not, have an education component tied to it.

“I think PointsBet can help us educating our student-athletes,” George said. “I think the educational piece is going to be a critical part of that.”

- Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com

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