Several articles appeared recently on the introduction of sports betting onto college and university campuses. I’ve linked to a couple examples. The first is from the Wall Street Journal. The second is what I might characterize as “critical commentary”.

Sports Betting Companies Advertise on College Campuses—but Not to Students, They Say

‘Stupidity on Steroids’: Dave Ramsey just blasted US universities for promoting online gambling to students — and reaping millions in fees. Why young people are the perfect prey

Caesar’s has led the way, signing high dollar deals with various schools including big-time players like LSU and Michigan State. As a result, they’ll be able to market their products aggressively in university stadiums, arenas, and other venues, as well as on radio and TV sports broadcasts and perhaps most importantly, online. It’s the online variety that’s emerged as the ‘big dog’ in gambling these days. More institutions are sure to follow.

The NCAA is rightfully concerned. They’ve already started doing prevention lectures on the subject, on a number of campuses. I recall something similar during the early days of the War on Drugs. Does this work as a prevention measure? Hard to tell. As with any prevention activity, measuring results is a challenge. How do you measure something that didn’t happen as a result of your program? Still, it’s good to see they’re aware of the dangers and are getting active. Given the obvious harm, that is, that gambling can do to the lives of young people, who lack the necessary experience for wise decision-making.

As for why a respected educational institution would get involved with gambling — that’s an open question. “Next they’ll be hawking meth pills in the bookstore,” joked a counselor. At least I hope it was a joke.

Money has to be behind it, don’t you think? Sports betting is a huge industry, and as far as growth, it’s expected to break the $20 billion mark in just a few more years — five times its current size. That’s a heckuva growth curve.

Sounds impossible, I know. Then again, I wouldn’t bet against it.

I do understand that colleges and universities are worried about their financial future, for good reason. Enrollments have been falling since 2010 – worse than ever during the pandemic. The decline did slow a bit in 2022. That won’t be enough to quell the anxiety of leaders of institutions dependent on an annual influx of new students for their prosperity — and in some cases, survival.

Some of the colleges have already begun to cut their prices. That’d be the simplest and most effective way to increase enrollment, I would think. But since they’d already raised their prices well beyond inflation, to offset the earlier shortfalls, I suspect they’re reluctant to ‘go backwards’ in terms of the rate structure. Not now, not once the public finally became accustomed to paying more for essentially the same services.

They may not have a choice.

Since gambling is probably the most heavily stigmatized problem behavior, outside of hard drug use, many prospective parents will be turned off by the idea of trusting their offspring to an institution associated with it. Public phobia around gambling isn’t what it used to be, not since the introduction of state lotteries and glitzy casinos. Nonetheless, we’re talking about your kids and your money, and as a parent, you might prefer to look elsewhere. The people in charge of higher education institutions know that. They’ll want to tread carefully.

Last, concerning the possible negative impact of widespread gambling on vulnerable students, here’s this from the WSJ article:

“Caesars executives say the deals with universities give the industry access to college alumni and older fans who can bet legally, and steps are taken to avoid marketing to the under-21 crowd. Caesars has agreed to fund gambling education for students as part of the agreements, the company said.”

Famous last words.

I’m afraid Dave Ramsey may be right: Some ideas, no matter how lucrative, are just plain stupid.