By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
November 23, 2022
A groundbreaking New York Times investigation into the world of sports gambling should change how North Carolinians — and the nation — view the industry, pro-family leaders say.
The series, published Nov. 20, examined thousands of pages of documents and interviewed lobbyists, lawmakers, executives and regulators, finding that the gambling industry “used dubious data” to promote its legalization and promised “gushers” of tax revenue that has not materialized.
Further, the investigation found that the sports gambling industry has partnered with at least eight cash-hungry university athletic departments — including Louisiana State University (LSU) and Michigan State — to promote gambling on campuses where many students are too young to legally participate.
“It just feels gross and tacky for a university to be encouraging people to engage in behavior that is addictive and very harmful,” Robert Mann, an LSU journalism professor and critic of the partnerships, told The Times.
The North Carolina House narrowly defeated (52-49) a bill this summer that would have legalized betting on professional sports and out-of-state horse racing, all from the ease of a smartphone. The issue is expected to return, and likely with wagering on college sports as part of the bill.
A 2018 Supreme Court decision opened the door for states to legalize sports wagering.
The sports gambling partnerships are particularly tempting to athletic departments in light of the pandemic which led to a shortage in revenue.
Caesars Sportsbook offered Michigan State $8.4 million over five years for its partnership. As part of the agreement, Caesars will “be mentioned in monthly emails to Michigan State’s database of 775,000 fans” and “include offers,” The Times reported. Caesars also will be mentioned on radio broadcasts.
LSU signed a similar deal with Caesars in 2021, leading to a mass Caesars-themed email to recipients, some of them students who were too young to legally gamble. The email urged fans to “place your first bet (and earn your first bonus).”
“It promised $300 in free bets for anyone who placed an initial $20 wager,” The Times said.
The University of Colorado (Boulder) signed a deal with PointsBet. As part of the agreement, the university receives $30 each time someone downloads the app and begins betting by using a unique code.
“It’s appalling for the university to be collecting a bounty each time a student places their first bet,” said Jennifer Hendricks, a University of Colorado law professor. The university, she said, is trying “to exploit our students for profit.”
Elsewhere, Turning Stone Resort and Casino is the “official resort” of Syracuse University’s athletics fund. Texas Christian University, in Fort Worth, partnered with WinStar World Casino and Resort to “open a new club with suites and premium seating,” The Times said.
College students and young people, The Times story noted, are particularly “vulnerable to developing gambling disorders” and often lack impulse control.
“Because gambling is not featured on school tours or in university brochures, parents may not know their children are enrolled in colleges where gambling is encouraged through free bets, loyalty programs and bonuses.” The Times said.
“You cannot get away from it,” said Mann, the LSU professor. “You take a daily shower in sports betting when you walk around.”
The deals have plenty of critics.
“The person who is developing into a problem gambler, for the most part, doesn’t want to stop gambling, because their head thinks, ‘This is fun. This is going to fix my problems,’ rather than, ‘I need to stop gambling because I’m destroying my life,’” said Michelle Malkin, an assistant professor at East Carolina University. “It’s really hard, especially for a young person, to come to that conclusion.”
F. King Alexander, the previous president of LSU, said students are already under enough pressure without encouraging them to gamble.
“The students are looking at X amount of debt and then the university is endorsing gambling on top of that?” asked King, who left the university prior to the Caesars deal.
Heather Lyke, athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh, warned that gambling will have a negative impact on athletes who already face heavy criticism on social media.
“These messages pale in comparison to those that will come when a spectator has bet a relatively large sum of money,” she testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 2020.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, said state legislators should read the NYT series.
“If sports gambling is made legal in the Tar Heel state, it’s inevitable that the honesty of sports – its players – its referees – will be compromised,” Creech said. “The game will no longer be about who wins on the court, but who wins off of it.”