Join Sportsbet And Get Access To Multiple Payment Options – An ad promoting a betting app on the Michigan State vs. Ohio State football game on Oct. 8 in East Lansing, Mich. Credit … Stephen Speranza for The New York Times

In order to reduce the millions of dollars in fees, universities are partnering with betting companies to introduce their students and sports fans to online gambling.

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In September 2021, an official in the Michigan State University athletic department emailed his boss with good news: an online betting company was willing to pay a lot of money for the privilege of promoting gambling at the university.

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«Alan, if we are willing to take an aggressive stance, we have a $1 million/year contract on the table with Caesar,» Paul Schager wrote to Alan Haller, the university’s athletic director.

Caesars Sportsbook’s offer was larger than that, according to emails obtained by The New York Times. Ultimately, the company proposed a deal worth $8.4 million over five years. It was, a member of the discussion group said in one email, «the biggest sports game in college sports.»

Other schools have also made deals to bring gambling to campus. After Louisiana State University signed a similar deal with Caesars in 2021, the university sent out an email encouraging recipients — including students who are under 21 and cannot legally gamble — to «place a bet on your first (and get your first bonus).

And when the University of Colorado Boulder in 2020 received $1.6 million to promote sports gambling on campus, the betting company sweetened the deal by giving the school $30 each time someone downloaded the app. company and used the promotional code to bet.

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The three deals were part of a massive but secretive campaign for the fledgling online gambling industry. Since the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to allow states to legalize such gambling, gambling companies have been racing to convert traditional casino customers, fans of fantasy games and online game players to become a new generation of digital gamers. Large universities, with tens of thousands of alumni and an easy-to-reach captive audience of students, have emerged as a very attractive target.

So far, at least eight universities have become partners with online sports betting companies, or sports books, many in the past year, with more expected.

In addition, at least 12 athletic departments and strength teams have signed deals with brick-and-mortar casinos. For example, Turning Stone Resort and Casino is the official resort of Syracuse University’s Cuse Athletics Fund. In 2020, Texas Christian University, located in Fort Worth, joined forces with Winstar World Casino and Resort to open a new club with suites and front seats.

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Online gambling deals have helped athletic departments recover some of the money they lost during the pandemic. These deals bring in more money that schools can use to sign marquee coaches and build winning teams. Mr. Haller, Michigan State’s athletic director, said in a news release at the time of the Caesars deal that it would provide «significant resources to support the growing needs of every varsity program.»

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These interactions raise questions, however, about whether promoting gambling on campus — especially among people of an age who are vulnerable to developing gambling problems — is consistent with the goal of education. high.

Robert Mann, an L.S.U. he says: «It is disrespectful and careless that the university has encouraged people to engage in addictive and very dangerous behavior.» Journalism professor and outspoken critic of collaboration.

Cody Worsham, LS athletic director and chief brand officer, said in a statement that Caesars and the university «share a commitment to responsible, age-appropriate marketing.» This commitment, Mr. Worsham added, «is part of a sustainable and responsible partnership that benefits our entire department, university and fans.»

Robert Mann, a journalism professor at Louisiana State University, is one of the critics of the university’s deal with Caesars.Credit… Stephen Speranza for The New York Times.

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Some parts of the deals also violate the gambling industry’s laws against marketing to minors. The Responsible Marketing Code issued by the American Gaming Association, an industry umbrella, says sports betting should not be advertised on college campuses.

Most online gambling deals are only months old, so the full impact on students has yet to play out. But the risks are too many. Sportsbooks encourage people to bet more often, even after they have lost heavily. On-campus programs to treat gambling addiction and other problems are few and far between, according to university officials and mental health professionals.

«We don’t see enough oversight, transparency and education to support the release of these types of deals,» said Michael Goldman, who teaches sports marketing at the University of San Francisco.

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Since gambling does not appear on school tours or in university brochures, parents may not know that their children are enrolled in colleges where gambling is promoted through free bets, loyalty programs and bonuses.

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«The day before sports betting was legal in the state, everybody was doing it,» said Louisiana State senior Jack Credidlo. He imagined how he would react if he used a sports betting program and his mother found out.

In order to understand how gambling arrived on campuses, the New York Times reviewed school records and interviewed students, professors, administrators, athletic conference officials, gambling directors and counselors.

The deals were hammered out mostly in private, the Times found, with little discussion on campus about the potential impact on students, athletes and the integrity of college sports.

To maintain these partnerships, athletic departments rely on companies that handle advertising and marketing rights for their teams. These companies, which organize all kinds of deals with sponsors, act as intermediaries. They negotiate deals with betting companies and take a cut, sometimes in the millions of dollars, of whatever money changes hands.

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An ad promoting gambling was sent — by mistake, the university said — to some L.S.U. undergraduates.

Unlike public universities, which are subject to federal disclosure laws and freedom of information requests, these sports marketing companies are privately owned. This means that the terms of the agreements they make do not have to be made public if the universities are not part of the contracts. (University athletic departments have often sought to protect their deals and often manage some of their more complex contracts, including lucrative television deals, through intermediaries such as conferences athletics.)

«With a multimedia rights provider, public institutions like Michigan State no longer have to disclose all sponsorship deals,» he said in an interview. «It helps that sponsors can spend what they think is right without the public or employees or shareholders questioning that investment.»

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At the University of Colorado Boulder, Seth Hornstein, chairman of the athletics committee, was unaware of the PointsBet deal until he saw a news release announcing it.

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Louisiana State in January sent a mass email to, among others, students who are not yet 21, the legal gambling age in the state.

«Tiger lovers, rejoice!» Email started. It promised $300 in free bets to anyone who placed an initial bet of $20.

Chris Holdren, chief executive of Caesars Sportsbook, said in an interview that the email was sent to undergraduates in error. «We were very disappointed that this happened, and we asked our partners at L.S.U. Athletics to identify and resolve the administrative issue,» he said.

However, Caesars reaches out to undergraduates through promotions on L.S.U.’s official website, at Tiger Stadium and on television and other media.

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«You can’t get away from it,» said Mr. Mann, L.S.U. Professor. «You wash yourself every day with sports betting when you go.»

Michigan State fans in October. School talks with Caesars are ramping up in the fall of 2021. Credit… Stephen Speranza of The New York Times

The colleges were unwilling to share financial details of their affiliations for this article. But through a public records request at Michigan State, The Times obtained a series of emails and documents that provide an in-depth look at how the university negotiated its deal with Caesars and whether Caesars how was he promised its money. The emails cover everything from how much money M.S.U. It would find out how to get free spartans jerseys in the discussion groups.

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Caesar’s deal was solidified in the fall of 2021, with emails exchanged between Caesar’s management, Michigan State athletic officials and representatives of the sports marketing company Playfly. The final proposal, according to the emails, included payments of $1.7 million in 2027. The state of Michigan would split the first-year payment equally with Playfly and keep a portion of 65 percent every year after that, and the rest goes to Playfly.

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In an email, Chris Cassell, Playfly’s senior vice president, assured Mr. Haller, the athletic director, that the details would not be released because «the contract will be between Playfly and Caesars, so it is not under ‘a «Public». Record Requests.» . If Michigan State had been a signatory, the public would have had a right to see the contract. Michigan State and Playfly declined The Times’ request to see the contract. Mr. Haller declined to comment.

Under the agreement, which was announced in January with little detail on the terms,

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