Connecticut’s legislature is considering a measure to ban public colleges in the state from partnering with sponsors to solicit students to gamble. The proposal to ban all forms of sports betting advertising and promotions that target student communities comes as an effort to reign in what some see as “excesses” of legal sports betting.
If approved, HB 5232 would limit the involvement of universities with sports betting companies as they attempt to market their products and services to students. The bill proposes a restriction on universities from sharing students’ information, including email, phone, or mailing address, for advertising sports betting services.
The proposal also seeks to limit any in-person communications, as well as “any other means for the purpose of including such person to make a transaction.” Many colleges and universities allow sports betting companies to stage live events on campus. While the legislation does not seek to ban these events, it does place restrictions on what the companies can do at these events.
Rep. Amy Morrin Bello, who introduced the bill, said she does not know of this sort of direct solicitation happening in Connecticut, but has read about it going on elsewhere, CT Insider reported.
Rep. Amy Morrin Bello
In an article published last fall, The New York Times cited an example from Louisiana State University, in which the school urged students, some of whom were underaged, to place bets using a special promo code.
In another example, the University of Colorado Boulder accepted $1.6 million to promote gambling on campus, plus another $30 every time someone downloaded the PointsBet gambling app.
Ahead of a public hearing on the bill last month, University of Connecticut’s associate athletic director, Neal Eskin, said UConn “would never entertain a proposal that would allow for the direct solicitation of students,” the aforementioned source reported. However, the school relies on corporate sponsorships for revenue.
Eskin noted that the XL Center in Hartford, where UConn basketball and hockey teams play, will soon host a sportsbook in the arena; and encouraged the legislature to be more specific, and remove any doubt about whether UConn could continue to partner with betting companies on “passive advertising” such as signage in venues.
“Please consider language which more clearly prohibits the direct solicitation of students, as it will help accomplish the primary objective while not inhibiting institutions like UConn from seeking and partnering with a responsible firm that does business in this space,” he urged.
Connecticut legalized sports gambling in the fall 2021 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law banning it in 2018. Legal betting has become increasingly widespread nationwide, leading to concerns about gambling addiction, including among teenagers.
The new proposal is co-sponsored by six legislators, five of whom are Democrats and one of whom is a Republican. Morrin Bello said she hopes the bill will come up for a vote in the broader legislature but acknowledged it may get lost amid many other bills this session.