The deal, negotiated through Maryland’s commercial rights partner PlayFly Sports, is the first betting partnership by a Big Ten school. While professional leagues have rushed quickly to partner with the booming U.S. sports betting industry, the NCAA and its members have been so far much more reluctant.
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The Australia-based bookmaker (ASX: PBH) will receive advertising opportunities in and around the school’s basketball and football stadiums, plus a presence across Terrapins digital properties. There are also educational and philanthropic components.
“Investing in the University of Maryland athletics program expands our ability to impact local communities and the greater DMV region while also connecting PointsBet with alumni that remain actively involved in reverence to their alma mater,” Johnny Aitken, CEO of PoinstBet’s U.S. business, said in a statement.
Terms of the deal weren’t announced.
It’s the second partnership that PointsBet has done in college sports, joining a deal inked last year with the University of Colorado. That deal, signed through Colorado’s on-campus rights partner Learfield, pays the Buffaloes at least $1.625 million over the five-year term, plus a $30 referral fee for every new customer the school directs to PointsBet, according to the contract.
The Maryland athletic department spent $92.2 million in 2019-20, according to the Sportico college finances database, the smallest total among the Big Ten’s 13 public schools.
For PointsBet, the Terrapins partnership will provide another opportunity to reach fans in an important geographic area. Not only is Maryland home to 6 million people and three major pro franchises, it borders four states (and D.C.) where sports betting is also legal and live.
In June, PointsBet secured market access to Maryland via an agreement with Riverboat on the Potomac, and was recently awarded a supplier license in Virginia. The company also has a wide-ranging deal with NBC Sports, which has a regional sports network in the Maryland/Washington D.C./Virginia area that includes live rights to Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals games.
For years, the NCAA was in lockstep with the major pro leagues in fighting the expansion of legal sports betting in the U.S. Once the Supreme Court declared the federal ban unconstitutional in 2018, pro leagues warmed to the idea of signing commercial partnerships that would grow their businesses.
College sports have been much more resistant, driven largely by tradition and integrity concerns. College football games are as popular as NFL games, but NCAA athletes are unpaid, have more restrictions around injury disclosures, and are typically much younger. As more states legalized sports gambling, individual schools have lobbied to prevent its spread. In some states, like New Jersey, gambling on in-state colleges is prohibited.
The NCAA itself has no sports betting partner, nor a big-money data deal for sports books. (It does work with an outside provider to monitor gambling lines and detect fraud.)
There are just a handful of other partnerships between sports betting operators and college programs. UNLV and Nevada have had advertising deals with William Hill; LSU recently inked a multi-year deal with Caesars (also facilitated by PlayFly).
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