As Petition Targets Caesars Deal, Michigan State ‘Aware’ Of New AGA Guidelines

Written By Paul Costanzo on April 6, 2023
Michigan State Caesars Partnership

A petition to end the partnership between Michigan State University and Caesars Sportsbook is being circulated by a group of faculty at the school.

The petition, which went online Tuesday and had nearly 300 signatures in its first two days, comes in the wake of the American Gaming Association updating its guidelines to ban future partnerships between sportsbooks and colleges.

MSU Associate Athletic Director/Communications Matthew Larson said those who oversee the agreement are looking at the new AGA guidelines and how they relate to the partnership.

“MSU is aware of the AGA code updates,” Larson told PlayMichigan prior to the release of the petition. “The university and its athletics department are not a party in the contract with Caesars, but we understand those who are engaged in the contract are reviewing the new guidelines to determine any possible impacts to the existing agreement.”

Petition: MSU, Caesars partnership contradicts university’s pledge

The petition is led by John Kerr, a community sustainability professor at MSU. The petition’s language cites the university’s pledge to take care of its students, specifically their mental health, and claims this deal is a contradiction to that pledge.

“Taking a page from the stereotypical image of a drug pusher, Caesars and the other large online gambling companies lure customers with free bets worth hundreds of dollars,” the petition reads. “Young men tend to be eager recruits; being knowledgeable about sports leads many of them to assume they will be successful gamblers. Even the American Gaming Association (AGA) has a code of conduct against advertising gambling on university campuses, but MSU has embraced it. The number of MSU students engaging in online gambling is unknown, but given our large student body, the number is probably high. If we create even one problem gambler that will be too many, but probably we are creating hundreds of them.”

Kerr did tell Legal Sports Report that the faculty group has been told by university officials that acting interim president Teresa Woodruff is looking into ending the partnership.

While details of the deal are not public, emails obtained by the New York Times have it worth $8.4 million over five years.

MSU, Caesars partnership one of many under scrutiny

The partnership between MSU and Caesars is only about 15 months old. It was announced on Jan. 13, 2022, just shy of the one-year anniversary of launch of Michigan online sports betting. While it wasn’t the first of its kind, it was one of a handful at the time.

But since then, the conversation around those deals has changed.

Colorado and PointsBet recently ended their partnership. While it was announced at nearly the same time as the AGA guidelines change, that was not listed as the reason for the split.

LSU also has a partnership with Caesars, but that came under fire a year ago when marketing emails were sent to students under 21, the legal gambling age in Louisiana.

Michigan State has worked to prevent that from occurring.

“MSU student emails, along with emails for Jr. Spartan members and anyone with a birthday in our system which is under 21, have been removed from emails promoting Caesars Sportsbook,” Larson said. “That has been the practice from the beginning and is not reflective of a recent change.”

The AGA is not alone in terms of national organizations taking a longer look at such deals. The National Council on Problem Gambling issued a report which includes suggested guidelines for the deals. That includes not offering incentives to schools based on participation in sports betting, and offering problem gambling treatment on campus, among others.

Photo by Carlos Osorio / 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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