Maryland lawmakers are taking steps to prevent universities in the state from forming partnerships with MD sports betting operators. The proposed bill, SB 620, would prohibit colleges and universities from partnering with a sports betting operator if they receive compensation for student participation in certain sports wagering. It would also require public disclosure of any such partnerships.
Maryland Lawmaker Inspired to Act
The bill was introduced by Sen. Shelly Hettleman after reading a series of New York Times articles about sports betting. In November 2021, the Times reported that the University of Colorado had formed a deal with PointsBet sportsbook that included a $1.6 million payment and a $30 bonus for every person who signed up for the app via a referral code. Following pushback, the two sides changed that aspect of the deal.
Hettleman was concerned that a similar situation could occur in Maryland, particularly with the University of Maryland partnering with PointsBet. However, PointsBet confirmed that the University does not receive compensation related to signups.
The bill received a hearing in the Senate Energy, Education, and Environment Committee on Wednesday, but no action was taken. Hettleman believes there is optimism about passing the legislation this session, which lasts through April 10.
“I have to tell you, so far, I’m not getting opposition from our university system,” Hettleman stated. “I’m pleased about that.”
While the bill would prevent any future deals involving sign-up bonus incentives, it would not prohibit universities from forming partnerships with sports betting operators altogether. Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, has criticized such partnerships, saying they present a problem gambling risk. This is amplified by the fact that Marylanders can now place sports wagers online.
Other Colleges Draw Criticism for Such Partnerships
Other colleges, such as LSU and Michigan State University, have also faced criticism for their relationships with sports betting companies. In early 2022, LSU students received emails with a sign-up code to start using the sports betting platform and raising concerns about the possible impact on underage individuals.
As universities and sports betting operators continue to adjust to the challenges of official partnerships, questions have arisen about the logistical hurdles involved in advertising to college students. With most undergraduate students under 21 years of age, operators and athletic departments must ensure that marketing materials don’t target underage bettors.
In Ohio, PENN entertainment was fined by regulators due to violating sports betting regulations when organizing an event. The event host at the University of Toledo’s campus shared a sign-up code for the Barstool online sportsbook, resulting in a violation due to the number of individuals under the age of 21 at the show.
In Massachusetts, university-operator deals are complete nonstarters due to regulations prohibiting sports betting operators from advertising on any college or university campus, or in college or university news outlets. However, the state has recently launched retail sports betting, with mobile sports betting set to go live on March 10.
Can Organizations Earn Through Other Ways?
Matt Brown, the publisher of Extra Points, notes that each school’s situation is different in terms of their interest in a sports betting deal. Nevertheless, there is another way for schools and conferences to partner with sports betting companies to generate revenue – selling data rights.
For example, the Mid-American Conference signed a data partnership with Genius Sports in 2022, requiring sports betting companies to pay for the league’s data if they want to use official statistics in real-time. It’s a less controversial way for schools to get involved and generate revenue while avoiding the challenges of traditional partnerships.