A controversial referral bonus between the University of Colorado Boulder and PointsBet Colorado sportsbook is no more.
Previously, the school received $30 every time someone signed up to the Colorado sports betting operator using CU’s promotional code and placed a bet, the New York Times reported.
As of January, school officials decided to do away with the bonus. According to the CU Independent’s reporting, though, the rest of the school’s deal with the sportsbook remains “largely unchanged.”
Controversial agreement between the University of Colorado and PointsBet
CU’s relationship with PointsBet started in 2020 when it signed a five-year agreement worth $1.6 million. The agreement came the same year in which Colorado legalized sports betting.
Not only did the deal include the now-removed promotion, but the agreement also gave PointsBet advertising at CU athletic events and on-campus recruitment.
At the time of the agreement, CU was working through the coronavirus pandemic. It provident a much-needed financial boost, according to a press release. But it also marked a first – no other school had such a deal with a sportsbook.
“[At the time], obviously, we were concerned about the image that the partnership projected from a campus perspective,” CU Intercollegiate Athletics Committee Chair Seth Hornstein told the CU Independent. “CU was the first one to do this.“
According to the New York Times, at least eight schools signed deals with sportsbooks. Those include:
- Louisiana State University (Caesars)
- Michigan State University (Caesars)
- University of Maryland (PointsBet)
According to Hornstein, it was the $30 referral bonus that caught his attention. “We were shocked and surprised about this,” he told the CU Independent.
According to CU Independent, Hornstein and other IAC members met with CU’s chancellor and athletics director in an attempt to amend the agreement with PointsBet. Eventually, they agreed upon using the money from the $30 referral bonus toward support for gambling addiction resources and campus diversity initiatives.
Good intentions behind partnership with PointsBet Colorado sportsbook
The thought behind allocating the referral bonus money came from a good place. Hornstein said:
“We felt it would make something good come out of the agreement. Some of that money would be invested back into the university to help student-athletes and students, staff and faculty in general.”
Additionally, PointsBet made good on its recruitment of CU students for full-time jobs and internships. The Colorado sportsbook attends career fairs and recruiting events on a regular.
The industry as a whole continues to grow, especially in Colorado. In November alone, Coloradans gambled more than $552 million – a 4.9% jump in handle from October’s figures.
CU athletic department stressed importance of responsible gambling
When it agreed to the partnership with PointsBet, the CU athletic department wanted to make sure it stressed the importance of responsible gambling. According to assistance athletics director Curtis Snyder, PointsBet made sure of it.
“When the athletics department decided to enter the space [of sports betting], we were encouraged by the amount of education PointsBet does about responsible gambling,” he told the CU Independent.
Much like the country as a whole, the state of Colorado is no stranger to problem gambling. According to the Problem Gaming Coalition of Colorado, the state’s gambling addiction helpline received a 45% uptick in calls and texts from 2020 to 2021.
Officials suggested recommendations to preserve athletic integrity
Integrity is one of the obvious concerns of a college partnering with a sportsbook. Some concerns specifically surround:
- Student-athletes becoming addicted to gambling
- Leaked information about games with a gambling insight
- Throwing games and contests
The IAC wanted to make sure the chances of any of that remained as close to zero as possible. So, it passed an anti-gambling resolution in 2022. The resolution recommended that no CU staff, students or faculty should bet on CU sports teams.
“We wanted to put the line in the sane that ethically, people should not be betting on their own student-athletes,” Hornstein told the CU Independent.
However, the resolution ultimately failed. Due to legal restrictions and limitations, CU officials opted not to implement the IAC’s notes.