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Colorado Buffaloes deal with PointsBet the first between gambling company & NCAA

The Buffs become the first team to partner with a sportsbook, but likely won’t be the last.

Mar 14, 2020; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Tyler Bey shoots over Washington State Cougars forward Jeff Pollard during the first half at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

From the days of their first Executive Director Walter Byers, the policy of the NCAA towards gambling has been simple: Don’t bet on it.

It’s a poster that hangs in locker rooms and study halls, with the NCAA banning postseason play in states that legalized gambling on college games for decades, overturning that rule just last year.

But that wall has been shattered in a way like never before with the announcement of a partnership between the Colorado Buffaloes and PointsBet, a sportsbook based in Jersey City, New Jersey. The deal was first reported by Sportico.

The University of Colorado is the first NCAA school to sign an official sports betting partner, a major step forward in dismantling college sports’ decades-long aversion to gambling.

The Boulder-based school has a new five-year deal with PointsBet, which is building its U.S. headquarters in nearby Denver. Legal sports betting went live in Colorado in May, and partnering with the state’s biggest athletic department is a way for PointsBet to separate itself from the sports books currently taking bets there.

The deal, which covers sports betting, fantasy sports, casino games and free-to-play contests, was negotiated by Colorado’s commercial partner Learfield IMG College. PointsBet will have signs placed at the school’s football stadium and basketball arena, plus a presence on radio broadcasts and other media. It also includes career development opportunities for Colorado students.

PointsBet is legally allowed to provide sports betting services in Colorado.

There have been associations between gambling and college athletics before. Several teams play in arenas or stadiums where the naming rights or sponsorship that hangs in the facility is from a casino (e.g. Hard Rock Stadium will host the Miami Hurricanes Thursday night, sponsored by the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood). And outings for donors to casinos, or college basketball tournaments hosted by them, have been a staple of college athletics for a long time.

But there’s never been a direct partnership between a sports betting provider and an NCAA team before. And we’re assuming they checked with someone in Indianapolis about this. Right? Right??

For years sports betting was shunned by the major leagues, but often with a tacit nod of approval. Many team owners are invested in sports betting products themselves, and as recently as yesterday the NFL partnered with BetCris to provide sports betting services in Latin America. The revenue that can be generated is too great to be turned down by teams and leagues. It also doesn’t hurt to drive TV ratings and fan interest, either.

But college athletics was so vehement in their stance they spent years testifying in Congress and lobbying to keep bans in place, penalizing schools such as UNLV and Ole Miss from hosting postseason games because of the legalized sports betting in their states.

Now even that wall has fallen. Betting on sports, at all levels of adult competition, is here to stay. And it will be licensed, regulated, taxed, and above-board. This is a good thing.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL). Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ/WV/PA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (NH/CO) or 1-800-BETS OFF (IA). 21+ (18+ NH). NJ/PA/WV/IN/NH/IA/CO/IL only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.