March Madness: Sports Betting Apps Flood College Campuses

Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “March Madness: Sports Betting Apps Flood College Campuses” – below is their description.

Piper Hutchinson isn’t opposed to gambling. But the 25-year-old political communications major says she was “really concerned” with the email she received in January from the athletic department at Louisiana State University.

The message, which was also sent to a large number of LSU fans, encouraged recipients to download the Caesars Sportsbook app. The subject line: “$300 in Free Bets Await.” Hutchinson, a senior, says universities shouldn’t be encouraging their students to gamble.

“There needs to be a line between the business aspect of athletics and the academics of a major flagship university,” she said.

As March Madness kicks off this week, that line is getting increasingly blurry on campuses in the roughly 30 states across the country where online sports gambling is now legal. To date, LSU is one of at least seven schools, including University of Maryland, University of Colorado and Michigan State University, that have reached lucrative advertising agreements with betting apps like Caesars Sportsbook and PointsBet.

Under the marketing deals, sports betting apps are paying to have their names mentioned during radio broadcasts, highlighted on schools’ mobile apps and displayed inside arenas and stadiums for fans and TV viewers to see. On a recent night inside LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center, an ad for Caesars Sportsbook flashed alongside the court. On the school’s sports radio network, an announcer provided “your Caesars Sportsbook scoreboard update.” There’s also a new Caesars Sportsbook Skyline Club at the football stadium.

The agreements are helping colleges fill holes in their budgets created by the pandemic and allowing sportsbooks to reach a key demographic of college sports fans—many of whom will place wagers this month during the NCAA’s March Madness tournament. Last year, nearly 50 million people were expected to bet on the college basketball tournament, with the number of people gambling on the games through an online sportsbook tripling compared to 2019, according to the American Gaming Association.

But the advertising deals have raised concerns about promoting betting to college-age students who may be vulnerable to addiction. Several states and universities restrict betting on college games. While the NCAA allows marketing deals between schools and sports betting apps, it still prohibits gambling by college athletes, coaches and administrators.

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