Is PointsBet-CU Deal A Risky Gamble For Integrity Of College Sports?

Posted on September 11, 2020

Editor’s Note: The following article represents the views of the author.

PointsBet has been a mover and shaker in Colorado’s budding sports betting scene.

First were the exclusive partnership deals with the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Mammoth.

Now PointsBet has forged a deal with the University of Colorado Buffaloes. That move, in particular, has worked some people into a tizzy, with fears that the integrity of college athletics is at stake.

But is it just a reactionary impulse from those hesitant and resistant to change? Or is there something to it?

The sports betting world knew change would come when the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). That was the 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports gambling.

Ever since then, the industry has moved at breakneck speed. And perhaps no better place can illustrate that hurried pace than the Colorado sports betting market.

PointsBet is clearly eager to join the ongoing sports-gaming sprint in the Centennial State. In fact, the operator is already in the thick of it and hasn’t even launched its app yet.

Look no further than the company’s latest all-in bet via the multiyear deal with the Buffs.

It’s one of the first sports betting deals with a university in the US. Opinions are all over the map, as are the questions.

For instance, some may ask what the implications of the PointsBet-CU deal are and what it means for the future, considering the Buffs won’t even get on the field or court for the rest of 2020.

Furthermore, what about those who say sports betting will kill the integrity of college athletics?

More eyes on PointsBet

Before that gets answered, it’s important to look at what the Australian sports betting company has done prior to this deal.

First was the multiyear deal with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE), making PointsBet the exclusive betting partner for the Avs, Nuggets, Mammoth and the Pepsi Center. KSE is the managing partner for the various organizations and where they play.

PointsBet is also moving its US headquarters to Denver. It recently began construction on a new flagship headquarters in the LoDo area of downtown, which isn’t far from the Pepsi Center.

That was followed by the multiyear agreement with NBCUniversal Media that was announced on Aug. 27.

PointsBet is now the “official sports betting partner” of NBC. That may not move the sports betting needle much in Colorado, but it will help more local fans discover the company.

That is especially true the longer the disagreement with KSE and cable company Comcast and satellite provider Dish Network drags on. The companies have been butting heads for more than a year now over getting Altitude TV, the channel that airs Avalanche and Nuggets games, on the service providers.

Fans who have Comcast and Dish have been deprived of watching Altitude since last August when the contract expired.

Thankfully, NBCSN carried the Avs playoff games until they were eliminated by the Dallas Stars last Friday in Game 7. If this dispute continues, Avs fans will see even more PointsBet if they have Comcast or Dish.

PointsBet’s strategy is clear, and the deal with CU really hits it home: Get in front of as many people who could bet on sports as possible. Whether collegiate or professional, they’re banking on people seeing PointsBet at all these events and venues, building curiosity in the company, downloading the app and using it.

Implications of the CU deal

But what are the implications of this deal with CU?

According to many NCAA stakeholders, sports betting will kill the integrity of college sports. Thus, they see this deal as a major step down a dark path.

If you had the misfortune of tuning in to the “Protecting The Integrity of College Athletics” hearing in Congress in July, the foreboding message was impossible to miss. Heather Lyke, the athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh, called for Congress to ban betting on all college athletics. Lyke said in her prepared remarks:

“The introduction of legal wagering on intercollegiate athletics will have a corrosive and detrimental impact on student-athletes and the general student body alike. Gambling creates pressures and temptations that should not exist.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert has also been a staunch opponent of gambling:

“Sports wagering is going to have a dramatic impact on everything we do in college sports. It’s going to threaten the integrity of college sports in many ways unless we are willing to act boldly and strongly.”

Yet these same stakeholders cash in on athletes all of the time. Crying now about “integrity” is peak hypocrisy.

It’s also clear that many of these doubters have a distorted view of sports betting — the kind that summons up images of dark-alley deals with bookies. If you don’t pay them, they’ll bust your kneecaps or put your feet in cement blocks.

Then there’s the 1919 Chicago White Sox (the Black Sox Scandal) and Pete Rose stigma. That’s where athletes and coaches have money on games and influence outcomes to cash in.

Heavy regulation

The key thing to know about sports betting: It’s heavily regulated.

Sportsbooks and states are hypersensitive about following the letter of the law. If they don’t, they’ll face public backlash — and rightfully so.

When Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012 to legalize marijuana, some had the same visceral response.

“Weed will destroy the state. Kids will use it,” was the common refrain at the time.

More than six years since the first dispensaries opened in the state on Jan. 1, 2014, more and more states are legalizing weed in some form or fashion. The tax money from the sale of marijuana continues to be a boon for the state.

Likewise, the state will also benefit from tax revenues collected from sports gaming. After just three months, the state has collected more than $555,000 in taxes. And that’s before major US sports were back in full swing. The Colorado Rockies and MLB were only a few days into their return.

Look at sports betting, including deals with colleges, in the same light.

Try to keep an open mind.

Change isn’t always bad, no matter how much we fight it.

Ian St. Clair Avatar
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Ian St. Clair

Ian St. Clair is an award-winning sports journalist. He is a University of Northern Colorado graduate, Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics.

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