What’s Permitted on College Campuses is Not the Question

A lot has been made about the news that select universities are allowing sportsbooks and casinos to promote gambling on campus. The road had been paved to do so after the Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting in 2018, which was followed by state-by-state legislation to permit the activity in respective regions. At press (Nov 2022) 31 states have legalized sports betting, including 21 that allow online betting.

Some consider the promotion of said activities to be an opportunity to drive necessary funding to universities. Some are vehemently opposed. Many are on the fence.

The debate over what’s right and wrong in this scenario won’t go anywhere soon. But we suggest that energy and resources may be wasted in this debate. Instead, it can be funneled into a more productive channel that will ultimately be beneficial to students. They are, after all, the one’s who matter most in all of this.

Why Debate Over Whether or Not On-Campus Promotion of Gambling (and other activities) is Permissible May be Futile, and Where Resources are Better Directed

The Inevitability Factor

While some universities will maintain their stance against the promotion of gambling on campus, others will not. Others have not. The latter may become the majority when you consider the current state of affairs.

Sportsbook Ad Revenue a Savior for Underfunding?

Reports indicate that post-pandemic enrollment declines and underfunding have hit the higher education system hard, leaving some colleges and universities in financial jeopardy. Major cuts in state funding for higher education have pushed more of the costs on to students in the form of tuition increases. It’s easy to draw the conclusion that some administrators may see sportsbook and casino sponsorship to be a way out of a very tight spot. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but if it keeps more students enrolled than otherwise, some see it as a solution. A necessary evil, so to speak.

Other Problematic Activities Currently Permitted On Campus

Critics point to research which shows that college-aged young adults are at higher risk for developing gambling disorders, and that 6% of college students already have a serious gambling problem. This sort of data backs the reasoning that gambling promotions should not be permitted on college campuses.

However, if that is the thought process, then one must look to another activity – alcohol consumption. College students who binge drink face an increased risk of suicide, injuries, health problems, and a number of other acute and chronic consequences. Studies also show that college students who participate in frequent drinking activities are more likely to develop a dependency on alcohol later in life. And yet, many universities across the USA are considered to be “wet campuses” compared to “dry campuses” who bow out of consumption allowance. Wet campuses allow students (aged 21 and over) to drink while on-campus and at on-campus eateries. and may provide alcohol at certain university sporting events to drive income. In one season, The University Texas generated $1.8 million in point-of-sale alcohol revenue.

Coincidentally, the allowance of on-campus alcohol promotion and consumption at sporting events has followed a very similar trajectory as gambling promotions. Since 2018 there has been a rapid increase in the number of universities allowing fans to buy alcohol at on-campus sporting venues. In 2019, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) passed a vote to lift a ban on stadium-wide alcohol sales, while the ACC’s University of North Carolina followed suit. The growing list goes on and on. This has many parallels with what’s happening with on-campus gambling promotions. Unfortunately, this parallel includes the inflated risk of a behavioral health disorder amidst an already vulnerable population. This leads us to what the discussion should really focus upon.

Reinvest a Portion of Revenue Into Behavioral Health Support

Unless there is a sudden and sustainable boost in state-by-state government funding for universities that can solve inflated tuition and subsequent declines in enrollment, the proliferation of gambling promotions on-campus is all but inevitable. Since no one is OK with shuttering schools, the conversation must immediately shift towards providing support for vulnerable and at-risk students.

Schools participating in sportsbook (and casino) sponsorship deals must take a portion of the generated ad revenue and reinvest it in behavioral health support for students. Schools must offer students better access to resources to assess if they are at risk for (or already exhibit behavior of) a gambling disorder and subsequently ensure that they have a safe, confidential, and accessible place to seek immediate help.


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