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College deals with operators face backlash
College partnerships with operators face scrutiny, AI help for teams in March Madness, and February handle.
Welcome to your weekly roundup! Baseball is back with a new pitch clock and people like it. We'll be digging much more into the new world of baseball soon. Meanwhile, get ready for the NBA playoffs...
A senator asking questions
College deals with sports betting companies are under fire and these types of deals could be scaled back after a series of events in recent weeks.
A New York Times investigation in November revealed that at least eight college athletic departments had signed deals with operators, often through intermediaries. The Times and critics raised questions about gambling being promoted to under-age college students, as well as promoting gambling among the wider student body and athletes. Many universities and their athletic departments had run deficits in the pandemic and some sought deals with sportbooks and others to help fill budget holes.
Some athletic departments had cut deals without other parts of the university administration knowing the details. Athletic departments had also worked with sports marketing agencies to ink deals with sportsbooks and others so that the contracts could not be seen through public records requests. The University of Colorado’s deal with PointsBet gave a $30 referral fee to the university every time someone downloaded the app and started betting. The university's board of regents didn’t know about the $1.7 million deal until just before it was announced.
Then with this new scrutiny, this past week Senator Richard Blumenthal requested information from 66 colleges about their relationships with operators.
Then, following an outcry after the NYT investigation, the University of Colorado and PointsBet ended their deal Wednesday. PointsBet said the move was unrelated to the AGA’s recent ban on college sports deals—PointsBet isn’t a member of AGA. The University of Colorado and PointsBet deal was the first such college sports deal when it was signed in 2020.
AI help for March Madness
College basketball teams now have access to a slew of new data, from Sportradar’s Synergy unit. The company tracks virtually every game (75,000 a year) using visual and AI technology as well as humans—and then feeds data on what plays a team ran and which players shot from where in the court. The company's API can tell you all the play calls by each team. Rival teams especially use it during March Madness when they have just hours to scout a team. The detail is granular to the level of tendencies—for example, which way a post player will turn, or which way a player will dribble. Or whether a player is better off the dribble, screen, and so on, Sports Business Journal reports.
This type of data seems similar to Hawk Eye, which recently announced a deal with the NBA. It seems inevitable that this sort of data will become more widely available. And that it will feed into sports gaming, daily fantasy and the like. As it becomes faster it could feed into real-time lines and odds as well.
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What we’re Reading:
Kentucky passed a law to legal sports betting which was signed by Gov. Andy Beshear Friday, becoming the 38th state to do so. The law takes effect in June.
Georgia's sports wagering bill isn't happening—at least until next year.
FanDuel is adding market share in iGaming, which has a higher average age and more women than its sports betting customers, Earnings+More reports.
MLB exec says pitch clock and faster games won’t hurt betting.
February handle is down 21% year-over-year (as well as 51% from January) with most states reporting.
Thanks for reading!