Colleges at Risk of Problem Gambling as Sports Betting Goes Unchecked on Campuses

Jessica Aletor
By:
Jessica Aletor
04/03/2023/
News
Brown Basketball Ball on The Floor

Highlights

  • A recent survey revealed that campuses have failed to create restrictions around gambling, despite having a demographic that is at risk of problem gambling.
  • Sportsbooks have also ramped up advertisement campaigns on colleges through partnerships with athletic institutions.
  • While the Problem Gambling Education bill offers some prospects, only BetMGM has shown any commitment to responsible gambling initiatives.

Early in February, Michigan took bold steps in the fight against teenage and problem gambling that had ravaged the state. Senator Joseph Bellino introduced a bill to establish responsible gambling education initiatives in schools and colleges across Michigan. Although the bill is still a long walk from becoming law in the Wolverine State, stakeholders can well read the handwriting on the wall.

However, despite the obvious call for regulation of gambling activities and prevention of teenage problem gambling, online sports betting has remained accessible to college students. Improper sportsbook advertisements have also been rife on Michigan campuses.

Survey Reveals College Students More at Risk of Problem Gambling

A survey by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism showed that college students were the demographic at highest risk of problem gambling in the US. Unfortunately, the response of universities and local authorities to this finding has not been encouraging. There have been no restrictions on online sports betting activities nor have the institutions created programs to address the menace.

The survey spanned universities where online sports betting were legal, including major institutions in Michigan. Only 25% of the universities were said to have implemented policies to prevent underage gambling and tackle potential addiction problems. The most popular form of regulation came in the form of a ban on NCAA betting sites among student athletes.

Yet, in practice, many of these colleges have directly or indirectly courted affiliations with sportsbooks, further increasing the risk of exposure. For instance, it was reported that Michigan State University struck a deal with Caesars Sportsbook MI and has since advertised at major college games. This is despite the fact that the American Gaming Association rules prevent sportsbooks from advertising in outlets with an underage audience.

Besides having a sports betting brand as a sponsor, Michigan State University and several other institutions in the US have failed to be transparent in these agreements. Sports betting has therefore continued unabated on these campuses without regulation, primarily due to the financial involvement of college authorities. 

How the Senate Bill on Responsible Gambling Education May Change the Status Quo

The failure of university authorities to take action has made legislative activity necessary. In response to the growing spate of underage sports betting, Senator Joseph Bellino proposed a bill that will bring age-specific gambling instruction to schools across Michigan.

“It has been reported that many young people don’t see gambling as risky and that the percentage of high school students with a gambling problem is double that of adults,” Senator Bellino remarked. "My bill has bipartisan support to head off this growing problem by acting to raise awareness among our students about the real risks of gambling.”

Should the senate pass the bill, gambling education will be introduced in the first month of 2024. This program will be helpful to teach teenagers about the ills of underage gambling. However, it is uncertain how this would affect college students and prohibit the inordinate advertisement of sports betting apps and sites on campuses.

BetMGM Making Significant Efforts to Promote Responsible Gambling

One of the Michigan sports betting operators that have taken steps to promote responsible gambling and kick against problem gambling. March has long been designated as Problem Gambling Awareness Month and BetMGM Sportsbook MI seems to be living up to the billing of the special month.

The operator announced that it would be making responsible gambling advertisements and promotions throughout the month. RG ads will be placed in print, on their website and sports betting apps, as well as television and radio.

The CEO of BetMGM, Adam Greenblatt, in a press release outlined the operator’s commitment to curbing gambling addiction.

“We are committed to leading the industry in promoting responsible gaming, which is why we’re announcing this unprecedented pledge to spotlight responsible gaming messaging in our advertising. As the legalized sports betting and online gaming industry continues to expand, it is vital that we not only equip players with tools and resources for how to play in a responsible and safe manner, but that we also make a significant commitment to showcasing responsible gaming in our advertising.”

BetMGM will be partnering with GameSense to push out its campaign messages. Users of BetMGM Sportsbooks in Michigan will, through this partnership, tackle gaming misconceptions, help customers set betting amount limits, and connect to licensed GameSense counselors.

Jessica is a news contributor to Gamble Online Michigan. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics but has over three years of experience working in the hospitality and gambling industry. Despite her core finance and investment banking background, she has been a casino feature writer for N1 Interactive Limited and multiple gambling affiliate sites. Her work has been featured on the bet365 blog, casino.zone and Max Force Racing. She spends her time between Michigan and California, staying up-to-date on the latest industry developments