LSU ends Caesars pact amid criticism of school's marketing practices
BATON ROUGE — LSU is ending its controversial, seven-figure agreement allowing Caesars Entertainment to advertise sports betting across its main campus, according to officials at LSU and a sports marketing company involved in the deal.
The agreement, struck in 2021, was supposed to last several more years, said Lauren Capone of Playfly Sports, a marketing company that helped arrange the deal.
Capone said that talk of ending the deal began when a bill was filed in the Louisiana Legislature in March that would prohibit colleges and universities in the state from creating advertising agreements with gaming entities. The bill, by Sen. Gary Smith of Norco, passed the House on Tuesday.
Another factor was that the American Gaming Association, an industry group, updated its responsible marketing code in March to prohibit gaming companies from having partnerships with universities to promote sports betting.
Since then, several schools, including Michigan State and the University of Maryland, have said they would end similar advertising agreements with gaming companies.
Smith said in a House committee meeting May 16 that LSU, the only university in Louisiana with such a deal, would end its arrangement with Caesars. Cody Worsham, LSU Athletics’ chief brand officer, confirmed Thursday that cancellation of the deal was being finalized.
Under the agreement, the first of its kind for an SEC school, Caesars Sportsbook was named the exclusive gaming and sportsbook partner of LSU Athletics.
Caesars received the rights to place signs throughout Tiger Stadium and to place its name on a new club seating area in the south end zone of Tiger Stadium. The area, called the Caesars Sportsbook Skyline Club, includes seats for up to 1,500 fans, an all-you-can-eat buffet and the option to purchase beer and wine.
The deal included Caesars Sportsbook signs in the venues for LSU’s 20 other men’s and women’s varsity sports programs, including the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and Alex Box Stadium, the school's venues for basketball, gymnastics and baseball. Caesars also received an exclusive spot on LSU’s mobile sports app and other broadcasting and digital sponsorship rights.
LSU promoted sports betting in mass emails sent to students, including those too young to legally gamble, prompting criticism from students and professors. The opponents were concerned about high rates of addiction, underage gambling and students wasting money needed to pay for their college education.
LSU has been removing the Caesars Sportsbook signs, and Capone said all of them should have been removed already.
Playfly Sports is a third-party media rights holder, LSU said in 2021.
LSU has not said how much money it is receiving from Caesars beyond noting it was “a multi-year, seven-figure deal.”
Michigan State, which also works with Playfly, announced last week that its contract with Caesars also would end earlier than planned — after the faculty petitioned to end the pact.
The University of Maryland said it has ended its agreements with PointsBet, an online sports betting company based in Denver, and the University of Colorado at Boulder has said its deal with that company is ending as well.
The NCAA recently released survey data that indicates 67% of on-campus students participate in sports betting and 58% of all surveyed students had placed a wager at least once. The students in the survey were aged 18-22.
In Louisiana, the legal age for sports betting and any other form of gambling is 21.
The NCAA survey also found that 58% of on-campus students who saw ads for sports betting companies were more likely to place bets after seeing the ads.
Robert Mann, a professor of mass communications at LSU, was one of the most vocal critics of LSU’s deal with Caesars. He tweeted earlier this year: “Still sickened by how quickly the people who run LSU were to embrace sports betting, heedless of the potential damage to students and athletes.”
Mann said in an interview that he was glad to see LSU athletics officials call off the deal.
“I mean, I think they’re being forced to do the right thing,” he said. “Not of their own accord but because of external circumstances and people who exercise better judgment than they did.”
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