PointsBet Adverts at University of Colorado Draw Criticism

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University of Colorado logo on the football stadium

PointsBet sportsbook has a controversial partnership with the University of Colorado through which it can market to young audiences. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

PointsBet advertisements target young Colorado audience

As the sports betting companies’ advertisements continue to stir controversy, practices used by PointsBet Sportsbook at the University of Colorado are under the microscope.

signage displayed during university events such as commencement and new student orientation

Denver-based PointsBet is the corporate sponsor of CU Boulder’s athletics program and is also partnered with Buffalo Sports Properties, which represents CU. As such, it has signage displayed during university events such as commencement and new student orientation, as well as engagement programs like football camps where underage youths are present. 

PointsBet maintains that, despite the growing skepticism, it is only marketing to Colorado alums and of-age persons. 

Extra sets of eyes

Until January, PointsBet had a deal in place with Colorado that allowed it to receive $30 for every person that created an account using the school’s affiliate code, regardless of whether or not they were a student or faculty member. 

75-85% of college students gambled in some form

Last fall, 7,106 first-year students enrolled in Colorado. Research conducted from 2007 to 2014—before sports betting was expanded and before Colorado adopted legislation—found that 75-85% of college students gambled in some form. The opportunity to do so has only increased with the availability of in-person and online sportsbooks.

A CU spokesperson said the school and PointsBet reached a “mutual decision to discontinue that portion [the $30 kickback] of the agreement.”

Regardless of the lost affiliate code, PointsBet will still receive massive marketing opportunities through its partnership with the school, especially thanks to Deion Sanders and the new-look football staff.

Sanders, known as “Prime Time” during his playing days and “Coach Prime” in the present, is a media darling. CU product sales were up 700% year-to-year during December 2022, Sanders’ first month as the Buffaloes’ coach, and Brian Howell of the Boulder Daily Camera says they have already sold over 30,000 tickets to their spring football game. Only 1,950 tickets were sold to the 2022 spring game.

General opposition

A majority of the opposition to PointsBet’s partnership with Colorado is due to the operator being unable to control who sees its branding. Eastern Michigan University law professor Richard Karcher, who teaches classes on sports and ethics, is one of those who have taken issue with both PointsBet and CU.

“Who cares whether the university intends for its advertising to reach their students?” Karcher wrote in an email. “It is, and the university knows it.”

the operator receive several promotions during live broadcasts of football games

Part of PointsBet’s agreement with Colorado mandates that the operator receive several promotions during live broadcasts of football games, including a sponsored pregame piece, a ten-second “live mention” and three 30-second commercials.

PointsBet’s logo is also visible on message boards at the 53,613-seat football stadium. The PA announcer also gives at least one mention to the company during the game.  

An Ohio University professor of sports administration, B. David Ridpath, said gambling is just like alcohol and cigarettes and is being coupled with “predatory marketing.”

“Students, like anybody else, are going to [gamble on sports],” said Ridpath. “That’s why it’s become much more mainstream.”

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal previously urged Caesars to stop the “disgraceful practice” of marketing sports betting at colleges. Executives at sports betting companies, such as FanDuel executive vice president of marketing Andrew Sneyd, agree that there should be regulations on marketing at colleges.