CU Boulder ends sports betting partnership with PointsBet

Original article published on the CU Independent here.

Folsom Field following the Buffs 34-31 OT win over Nebraska. Sept 7, 2019 (Nigel Amstock/CU Independent)

The University of Colorado Boulder announced the end of its partnership with sports betting company PointsBet on Wednesday, March 29. 

The $1.6 million contract, which originally lasted until the 2025-2026 academic year, has been terminated three years early. The deal has faced community backlash since it was instated in 2020.

The announcement comes just one day after the American Gaming Association (AGA) banned partnerships between colleges and sportsbook operators, although PointBet is not a member of the AGA and the university said its decision was not affected by the association’s decision.

“PointsBet and the University of Colorado have decided it is mutually beneficial to end their partnership at this time. Both parties are thankful for the joint efforts throughout the relationship and wish the best for each organization going forward,” read a joint statement by CU Boulder and PointsBet provided to BuffZone on March 29.

PointsBet and CU Boulder

The deal has been under further scrutiny since late 2022, when the New York Times reported on a referral bonus that gave the university $30 every time someone signed up on PointsBet with CU Boulder’s promo code and placed a bet.

In mid-January, the CU Independent reported that the university discontinued the controversial sports betting incentive, although officials left the rest of the deal largely unchanged at the time.

The rest of the deal remained in place until March, which included advertisement spaces for PointsBet at Colorado athletics events and the facilitation of professional opportunities at the company for university students and alumni.

Back in 2020, the launch of CU Boulder’s partnership with the sports betting company received widespread criticism as it was the first major sports betting partnership in college athletics. 

In 2022, the university’s Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and the Boulder Faculty Assembly passed an anti-gambling resolution recommending a restriction on university staff, students and faculty from betting on Colorado sports teams.

The university did not implement the suggestions included in the resolution due to legal concerns.

Community concerns

In response to the New York Times report, community members once again expressed concerns about the impact of sports gambling on college students, who tend to be more vulnerable to problem gambling and addiction. 

Boulder resident Timothy Wirth, a former U.S. Senate member for Colorado and the former president of the United Nations Foundation, wrote an email to Chancellor Philip DiStefano expressing his concerns about the partnership after the cancellation of the referral bonus. 

“I appreciate the fact that you eliminated one part of your betting agreement, and clearly you also have the authority to eliminate it completely,” Wirth wrote in an email to Chancellor DiStefano on March 17. “The university’s reputation is not worth a few hundred thousand dollars[.]”

At the time, Wirth said he felt particularly concerned about the partnership ahead of the upcoming season for Deion Sander’s high-profile football team in the fall.

“Young people are vulnerable [to sports betting problems], even more so when the CU football team starts to get a lot of attention,” Wirth said. “When Prime’s [team] gets going, people are going to be fascinated and watching it all. I think that will encourage a mad rush of even more betting.”

Industry regulations

In response to growing concerns from educators and lawmakers, the American Gaming Association introduced new regulations to prohibit future partnerships between universities and sportsbooks on Tuesday, March 28. This will prevent “college partnerships that promote, market or advertise sports wagering activity.” However, this will not affect existing partnerships.

Despite the close timing, CU Boulder stated that this AGA regulation did not impact their decision to end the partnership with PointsBet, which they said had been in the works for several months. PointsBet is not currently a member of the AGA. 

Following CU Boulder’s announcement, only four universities in the U.S. still have sports betting partnerships: the University of Maryland, Michigan State University, Louisiana State University and the University of Denver. Maryland plans to continue its partnership with PointsBet

Other states such as New York have banned in-state betting on college athletics. Colorado does not have this rule in place. Thus, CU Buffs and DU fans are still able to bet on their own team’s games.

At least for the next season, CU Boulder will no longer be promoting PointsBet and their “Do It Live” campaign advertisements on campus or directly profiting from the university community engaging in sports betting.

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