When the University of Maryland and PointsBet Sportsbook came together to form a marketing partnership using both of their respective brands and audiences, there was an immense amount of excitement and hope in the air.
Unfortunately, Maryland Executive Associate Athletic Director and Chief Strategy Officer Brian Ullmann’s prophecy conveyed through a press release that stated Maryland Athletics will, “lead boldly with the first deal of its kind in the Big Ten Conference and in the region,” fell extremely short.
All of that immense hope was unfounded, and that unbridled excitement was premature. Due to many reasons — the largest being legislative pressure – the partnership between the university and PointsBet has been terminated.
“PointsBet and Playfly Sports have reached a mutual agreement to end their sponsorship at the University of Maryland,” the company said in a statement as reported by Legal Sports Report.
What led to this outcome while sports betting continues to march its way across the county? What type of legislative pressure was applied by Maryland lawmakers to undo such a deal between two massive entities? What does this mean for current and future deals between sports betting providers and colleges or universities?
Let us dive in.
What led to PointsBet Sportsbook and University of Maryland split?
Originally, the deal between PointsBet and Maryland was agreed upon for a few reasons.
First and foremost, PointsBet Sportsbook wanted their marketing across all of their major channels and in arenas. Simply, this was a marketing deal in which PointsBet paid the university for the marketing advertisement space digitally and locally. On the opposite hand, the University of Maryland received funds to allow this marketing to happen on its campus and wanted to utilize this new partnership to help educate students and others about safe gambling habits and help create a career pathway for students graduating who would like to work in the gambling and gaming industry.
“Investing in the University of Maryland athletics program expands our ability to impact local communities and the greater DMV region while also connecting PointsBet with alumni that remain actively involved in reverence to their alma mater,” said PointsBet USA CEO Johnny Aitken via press release. “Sports betting education and safe gambling is key to our long-term strategy, as is making a tangible impact on the communities we invest in. We are proud to work with such a high-profile, storied university to further these objectives.”
Those goals, while honorable, were not enough to dissuade teachers, parents, and lawmakers in the state of Maryland from taking action against the deal. Many of those factions began to wonder if the pairing of colleges (with some students too young to even place wagers on sports) and sports betting providers would negatively impact the students attending the University of Maryland.
That concern was enough for two identical pieces of legislation (House Bill 0802 and Senate Bill 0620) to be rammed through the legislative process in Maryland and, if signed into law, they would effectively end these current deals and prevent future partnerships from happening.
Maryland Legislative pressure played major role in dissolving partnership
Both House Bill 0802 and Senate Bill 0620 are identical in every way except for which branch of government they began in.
The goals for each of these pieces of legislation were to install barriers or guideposts that keep these deals from going too far. The specific issue that these bills are tackling is not allowing sports betting platforms to benefit off of students gambling or student participation in marketing campaigns. That single change essentially ended this deal if this bill becomes law.
Right now, House Bill 0802 and Senate Bill 0620 both are sitting on the Maryland Governor’s desk awaiting signatures to become law. They both flew through the legislative process and are just a little bit of ink away from becoming law.
Each piece of legislation being that close to being signed into law all but assures this bill will pass. That is likely a large reason that PointsBet Sportsbook and the University of Maryland decided to end their partnership.
Other college partnerships with sportsbooks feeling the pressure
While Maryland would be the first state to implement guardrails on partnerships between colleges or universities and sports betting providers, there is still pressure in other states to dissolve other deals of their kind.
The University of Colorado and PointsBet Sportsbook already ended their partnership back in the later portion of March of this year despite having two years remaining on their deal. That was one of the first dominos to fall and it eventually led to PointsBet Sportsbook also pulling out of their deal with the University of Maryland.
Now, PointsBet Sportsbook is looking to sell their business in the United States of America according to their company’s third quarter conference call. Legal Sports Report has stated that these talks about selling their United States business, “are well advanced,” at this time.
There are also many faculty members who have backed a petition at Michigan State University to end its partnership with Caesars Sportsbook. That deal also appears to be coming to an end, based on reports.
It seems the fight to keep sports betting providers from college students is a battle that will continue for some time.