PointsBet USA signed a multi-year partnership deal with the University of Maryland in December 2021.
For the sportsbook, the deal provided a way to promote its product, as the deal was struck the same month in-person betting went live in Maryland. For the university, the partnership was a way to educate students, staff and fans on sports betting and how to bet responsibly.
Some Maryland lawmakers are now scoffing at the deal. Legislation introduced in the state Senate would ban most deals between sportsbooks and colleges and universities.
Goal of deal was to provide education on responsible gambling
Maryland sports betting now includes both in-person and online sports wagering. Retail sportsbooks in Maryland began taking bets in December 2021, while online betting launched on Nov. 23, 2022.
The deal between PointsBet and UMD was heralded as the first deal between a sportsbook and a Big Ten school. The top priority of the deal voiced by both the company and the university was to provide education on sports betting and problem gambling.
As time wore on, however, some organizations expressed concern over promoting gambling to students, most of which were too young to place bets. Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, expressed his concern.
“These colleges should be very concerned about the impact of gambling addiction among especially underage students.”
Many deals between sportsbooks and schools include third-party entities
Across the country, colleges and universities are making deals with sports betting companies. The partnerships allow sportsbooks to promote their brands in stadiums and gyms, on radio and television broadcasts and within athletic departments.
Some education and gambling experts say deals expose students to gambling. Interestingly, schools are actually making deals with third-party companies that are paid to organize sponsorships on schools’ behalf.
Specifics on the deals are usually not public. Open records laws are not applicable to private companies; therefore, agreement particulars can remain hidden.
The actual deal between PointsBet and the UMD is via Playfly Sports, a sports marketing and media company. Craig Sloan, COO at Playfly Sports Properties, confirmed it.
“Playfly Sports is a proud partner of Maryland Athletics. And we are constantly seeking innovative opportunities to engage new sponsors.”
Additional parts of the deal include in-game and on-campus activations as well as around Maryland’s XFINITY Center and Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.
Sides tout education on gambling responsibly as top priority of deals
The majority of the students at the University of Maryland are actually not old enough to place bets. Even so, PointsBet has said it hopes to educate students on gambling responsibility. Additionally, the sportsbook said it wants to educate students on how to gamble on sports.
UMD Executive Associate Athletic Director and Chief Strategy Officer Brian Ullmann said education was the main reason behind the deal.
“With the announcement of our partnership with PointsBet through Maryland Sports Properties and Playfly Sports, we are looking forward to raising awareness and educating our student-athlete and university community about responsible gambling.”
Some Maryland legislators aren’t buying it
Maryland state Sen. Shelly Hettleman recently filed legislation, SB 620, which would end the deal between PointsBet and UMD and most partnerships between Maryland colleges and universities with sportsbooks.
In short, the proposed law would bar colleges and universities from partnering with sports betting companies as well as marketing affiliates.
“[The purpose of the legislation is] prohibiting institutions of higher education from entering into a contract with a certain regulated gaming entity or a certain agent of a regulated gaming entity if the institution of higher education receives certain compensation for student participation in certain sports wagering; providing that a certain contract formed by a public institution of higher education is subject to public inspection in accordance with the Maryland Public Information Act.”
Hettleman said the response to her legislation has been surprising.
“I have to tell you, so far, I’m not getting opposition from our university system. I’m pleased about that.”
The current Maryland legislative session lasts through April 10. SB 620 is currently in the hands of the Senate Energy, Education, and Environment Committee.