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University of Colorado, PointsBet End Partnership

Although a new American Gaming Association ban on partnerships between universities and sportsbooks isn't retroactive, CU and PointsBet have decided cut ties.
The University of Colorado and PointsBet just ended a partnership.
The University of Colorado and PointsBet just ended a partnership. Conor McCormick-Cavanagh
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Amid increasing pressure from politicians and problem-gambling advocates, the University of Colorado and PointsBet have ended a controversial partnership that had been in place since 2020.

“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," PointsBet and CU Boulder say in a joint statement.

The announcement comes just one day after the American Gaming Association announced new rules that prohibit future partnerships between universities and sportsbooks.

In particular, the AGA announced on March 28 that its new marketing code for sports betting would prohibit "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)."

According to an AGA spokesperson, the code updates are not retroactive and would not impact existing college partnerships.

However, CU and PointsBet — which did not answer questions about whether a deal between them was wise, given how many students under the legal betting age of 21 attend the university — still chose to end their partnership.

PointsBet, which would not get into specifics about why it ended the deal, states that the two entities had been planning to end things even prior to the announcement of the new rules. PointsBet also noted that it is not a member of the AGA.

Just a day before the move by AGA, Richard Blumental — a U.S. senator from Connecticut — sent a letter to 66 colleges and universities asking them about partnerships or potential partnerships with sports-betting companies. Blumenthal called it "deeply concerning" that universities are willing to team up with sports-betting brands, especially given the fact that young people can have problems gambling responsibly.

While just a few universities across the U.S. have announced partnerships in recent years, two of them happen to be located in Colorado, whose legal market went live in May 2020 following the passage of Proposition DD by voters in November 2019. That ballot measure, which was referred by the Colorado Legislature, sends most of the tax revenue generated from sports betting toward funding the Colorado Water Plan — a guiding document for ensuring that the state has water for recreating, agriculture and drinking for decades to come.

Through January of this year, sports bettors in Colorado have wagered over $10.7 billion. The State of Colorado has collected over $34.7 million on those wagers through a 10 percent tax on sportsbook winnings.

In September 2020, the University of Colorado announced a partnership with PointsBet, which has its North American headquarters in downtown Denver.

Rick George, the university's athletic director, hailed the partnership as one that would benefit "student-athletes for years to come."
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The University of Denver has a sports-betting partnership with SuperBook.
Conor McCormick-Cavanagh
Additionally, CU lauded the fact that the five-year deal was one of the few in place between "a sports betting operator and a major NCAA Division-I Athletics Program."

A year later, the University of Denver announced that it was partnering with SuperBook, a sportsbook run by a Colorado native.

"As sports betting continues to become more and more of a passion for our fan base, we felt that it was important to partner with a local company that we trusted to put an emphasis on responsible gaming. We're also excited about the opportunity for the proceeds of this partnership to directly impact our student-athletes' experience at DU," Karlton Creech, DU's vice chancellor for athletics, recreation and Ritchie Center operations, said in September 2021.

DU and SuperBook did not return requests for comment.

The partnerships between the two Colorado universities and sports-betting companies had been especially noteworthy, as they were among just five publicly known partnerships of this kind throughout the country. The only other three major colleges involved with sports-betting companies were Michigan State University, Louisiana State University and the University of Maryland.

The University of Colorado got $1.6 million from PointsBet for the deal — along with $30 every time someone downloaded the company's app and used a promotional code to place a bet, which was highlighted in a New York Times investigation.

Following the negative press associated with that investigation, the University of Colorado ended the $30 promo-deal aspect of the arrangement, the CU Independent reported in January.

The Colorado lawmakers who crafted the bill that eventually turned into Prop DD were aware of how college students may be more susceptible to the negative effects of widespread legal sports gambling. But they were focused on college athletes, not non-athlete students. Proposition DD explicitly banned bets in Colorado on the in-game performance of college players.

Alec Garnett, a Democrat and former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives who spearheaded sports-betting legalization in Colorado, told Westword in the months before the November 2019 vote on Prop DD, "We want to make sure that the games that are being played aren’t being rigged, and allowing one individual, who could be living on ramen and might be more susceptible to fraud, the opportunity to swing those lines."

Other states such as New York have banned in-state betting on local college athletics. Colorado has no such prohibition, and fans attending a CU Buffs football game or watching a DU hockey game at home can wager on the games.

Since the first two years of legal gambling in Colorado featured few dollars heading toward problem-gambling services, Colorado lawmakers passed a bill — which Governor Jared Polis signed into law — that earmarked more money for problem gambling. And in February, the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission approved distribution of grants worth more than $1.5 million.
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