When Michigan State University Athletics agreed to a deal that allowed Caesars Sportsbook marketing entry to the athletic landscape in East Lansing, it knew it was getting a reported nearly $9 million from the Michigan sports betting entity in the deal.
However, what officials responsible for the arrangement might not have counted on was the program becoming a lightning rod in the controversy over academic institutions aligning themselves with the sports gambling industry.
The handshake between Michigan State and Caesars Michigan Sportsbook is getting more attention now after the American Gaming Association stiffened its own Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering. The updated AGA guidelines take aim at the connection between sports gambling marketing and colleges.
Specifics of Updated AGA Code
Specifically, the AGA said in its announcement on Tuesday that its updated code enhances “protections for college-aged audiences by: Prohibiting college partnerships that promote, market or advertise sports wagering activity (other than to alumni networks or content focused on [responsible gaming] initiatives or problem gambling awareness).”
The updated code also is “prohibiting sportsbook NIL (name, image and likeness) deals for amateur and college athletes.”
The code included other updates such as “banning all use of ‘risk free’ in advertising.”
What MSU Deal With Caesars Entails
When the Michigan State website for athletics announced the deal in January 2022, it said, “Caesars Sportsbook will gain significant exposure through MSU's sports properties and access to a wide range of hospitality assets and VIP experiences, which will be available to Caesars Sportsbook players, as part of the wide range of benefits offered through the industry-leading loyalty program, Caesars Rewards.”
That announcement went on to identify the “assets” included in the arrangement as “broadcast and digital content across MSU athletics, TV-visible signage across basketball, football and hockey, naming entitlement for a new premium seating area inside Spartan Stadium set to debut during the 2022 football season along with an outdoor tailgating area, and access to unique alumni and fan engagement opportunities surrounding varsity sports seasons currently underway.”
To be clear, the AGA’s code might have little actual enforcement weight on either Michigan State or Caesars Sportsbook. But the organization is broadly the voice of the U.S. gaming industry and in that way it has a bully pulpit.
However, Caesars Entertainment is not an AGA member. Some major gaming companies that are “core” AGA members are MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, Rush Street Gaming, FanDuel Group, and DraftKings Inc., among many others that operate sportsbooks as well as online Michigan casino apps.
Michigan State Not Alone in Sportsbook Deal
It remains to be seen whether Michigan State Athletics will flinch considering that now even the major gaming trade organization is taking a position that appears at odds with its deal with a national sportsbook.
Michigan State is not the only university to have forged a deal with a gambling company. The University of Colorado, in 2020, also had an arrangement with online sports gambling company PointsBet. After criticism, the agreement reportedly has been largely dismantled.