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Shifting times in college sports opens new partnership doors for Michigan State

Liam Jackson
Liam Jackson

It would have been unthinkable for a major college sports program to partner with a sports gambling company. Not anymore, as MSU is working with Caesar’s Sportsbook on an array of promotions around Spartans Athletics.

College sports are rapidly changing, due to rule changes that allow student athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). Another big change is a partnership between an athletic program and sports gambling company would have unlikely not too long ago, but now is considered good business.

Michigan State is one of the first athletic programs in the country to partner with a sports betting company, setting up a deal with Caesars Sportsbook announced on Jan. 13, 2022.

Kris Kassel is the general manager for the Michigan State property with Playfly Sports. Michigan State and Playfly work together to secure partnerships such as this one.

Kassel has been working with Michigan State for six years. He also represents Louisiana State University and Maryland for Playfly Sports. LSU was the first school in the country to partner with a sportsbook and Maryland was the first in the Big Ten.

“This partnership is an opportunity to provide more resources for student athletes,” Kassel said. “There are financial pressures on universities to support student athletes financially.”

Three main components of the partnership will be debuting in Fall 2022. First, student athletes will be offered gambling education. Details about how this kind of education will be administered at MSU are yet to be determined. However, the NCAA has partnered with EPIC Risk Management to provide gambling harm reduction courses.

“We are partnering with a reputable company that wants the same bad things gone,” said Kassel.

The stigma surrounding sports gambling was a topic that was thoroughly discussed and thought out during the process of creating the partnership. Kassel said the plan is to be as proactive as possible in order to get out in front of any problems or criticisms that may arise.

Kassel said partnering with Caesars was discussed for an appropriate amount of time to “vet all of the possible decisions” and that the reaction has been positive.

"We are excited to be on the cutting edge of this innovative opportunity,” Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller said in a press release. “While recognizing the importance of Caesars' commitment to responsible sports gaming education both for the student-athletes and the University community as a whole."

The second major component that will be available in the fall of 2022 are scholarships that will be available to any student, not just student athletes, that are pursuing a career in the gaming or sports industry.

Finally, the third component of the partnership with Caesars Sportsbook and MSU are internship opportunities for students who are pursuing a career in the gaming or sports industry. The criteria for the scholarship and internship have not been decided on yet.

The NCAA announced last summner that current and incoming student athletes will be able to use their “name, image and likeness” to make money. MSU has taken advantage of the rule change.

In September 2021, United Wholesale Mortgage sponsored the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams. This sponsorship pays each player on the football or men’s basketball roster $500 a month.

Also, MSU has set up a website called the Michigan State Exchange. The goal is to “provide a customized portal where businesses and student-athletes can communicate, negotiate and enter NIL transactions.”

“Michigan State is trying to provide an environment for student athletes and prospective student athletes to get the most out of their NIL deals,” said Kassel.

Acquiring resources and opportunities for student athletes and students alike is the main focus of the partnership between Michigan State and Caesars Sportsbook. However, the fan experience at sporting events will also look different come the fall of 2022.

"The opportunity to partner with Caesars, a leading force in the sports and entertainment industry, will help enhance game day experiences for Spartan fans and provide significant resources to support the growing needs of each of our varsity programs," said Haller in a press release.

Advertising for Caesars Sportsbook will be prominently displayed. Munn Ice Arena already has an ad on the boards of the rink. Spartan Stadium will be getting the biggest facelift in terms of advertising and other changes.

One of those other changes will be a premium Caesars Sportsbook seating section for fans. This section will be for any fans and not just customers of Caesars Sportsbook. A pregame hospitality area will be available for those with access to the premium seating section.

Sarah Fish is a junior at Michigan State. Her family have been season-ticket holders for 25 years. Fish has spent most of her life attending Michigan State football games in Spartan Stadium.

“I am intrigued by the new Caesars seating option,” said Fish. “I think that it could increase my family’s gameday experience.”

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