What Led To End Of Michigan State, Caesars Sportsbook Deal, And What’s Next?

Written By Paul Costanzo on June 2, 2023
Michigan State Caesars Deal

What has seemed inevitable for about two months now has been confirmed. The partnership between Michigan State University and Caesars Sportsbook is ending.

While many reports had stated as much, Legal Sports Report was able to get confirmation Thursday from PlayFly Sports, the media rights holder for MSU, that the agreement was being terminated. It was also confirmed that the Caesars deal with LSU was ending.

The end of the MSU and LSU agreements follow the termination of agreements between PointsBet and both Colorado and Maryland. What once looked like a growing revenue stream for universities, is now likely buried.

What happened to the deal between MSU and Caesars Sportsbook?

When Caesars and the Spartans announced their deal in January of 2022, it seemed like the start of a national movement. Sports betting in Michigan was a year old, and new states were launching fairly frequently.

It was no surprise that college athletic departments saw a money-making opportunity in the growing market. And it was no surprise that sportsbooks saw an opportunity to grow their customer base with both young bettors and sports fans.

Red flags popped up almost immediately, though. At LSU, a promotional email was sent to all students, not just those of legal gambling age.

Sign-up promotions geared toward college students, even those who were 21, worried responsible gambling advocates.

The American Gaming Association didn’t take long to start taking a closer look, and about a year after MSU and Caesars had announced their deal, the AGA had weighed in, effectively putting an end to similar deals in the future. Legislation in Maryland banned such deals, forcing its land-grant university to end its partnership with PointsBet.

A groundswell at MSU wasn’t far behind, as a petition was started in early April by faculty demanding the deal end. To the credit of the MSU Athletic Department, it was willing to listen. A representative told PlayMichigan shortly after the AGA decision that PlayFly was looking into how it affected the deal.

Following college athletics betting scandals at Alabama and Iowa, the Athletic’s Chris Vanini reported ($) that the MSU deal with Caesars was effectively ending. The Lansing State Journal‘s Graham Couch went a step further earlier this week, writing a column about the end, including a quote from MSU Athletic Director Allen Haller.

While it was PlayFly that had to hash out the details, it was clear that MSU wanted out.

PlayMichigan did attempt to get a comment from Caesars on the matter, to no avail.

Future of college athletic deals with sportsbooks

So now what?

It’s likely there will be a statement from MSU, Caesars or both when the deal is officially ended.

Publicly, at MSU, it will mean no longer seeing Caesars signage at athletic events.

Privately, PlayFly, the university and Caesars will have to work through the terms of ending a deal that had several years and millions of dollars remaining.

It seems crazy to think deals like this are forever dead. There’s a lot of money to be made with them, and the sports betting market is still growing and evolving.

Each new state is learning from the last, and responsible gambling is being stressed more and more. Right now, that means stopping these. Eventually, though, it could open the door to better deals that feature better guardrails.

Photo by Al Goldis / Associated Press
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Paul Costanzo

Paul Costanzo is the managing editor of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. He has covered news and sports throughout the state at various media outlets over the past 20 years. Paul works with a talented team at PlayMichigan to provide the latest news and information on Michigan’s booming sports betting, online casino and online poker industries.

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