The Danville Otterbots have a new sponsor for the 2023 season: Caesars Virginia.
The Virginia summer collegiate baseball team will partner with the Virginia casino on promotions and entertainment this summer. Scheduled events include the team’s first-ever fireworks display on June 6 and a fan appreciation party on July 29, which includes a bobblehead giveaway for the first 500 fans in attendance.
“We could not be more excited to have Caesars Virginia and their wonderful team join us as presenting sponsor of the 2023 season,” Otterbots General Manager Austin Scher said in a release. “Our city and our region have already seen and felt the positive impact that Caesars Virginia is bringing to Danville, and we cannot wait for our community and Otterbots fans across the world to see and feel the impact of this amazing partnership.”
Otterbots deal comes as AGA updates market code for sports gambling and colleges
The Otterbots’ deal with Caesars Danville Casino comes amid increasing scrutiny of sports betting advertising to college students.
In late March, the American Gaming Association released an updated version of its Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering.
The updated code notes that college partnerships that “promote, market or advertise sports wagering activity (other than to alumni networks or content focused on responsible gaming initiatives or problem gambling awareness)” is prohibited.
Sportsbook deals based off name, image and likeness are outlawed for amateur and college athletes, too.
But the Otterbots-Caesars partnership is legal because it does not involve an educational institution. Like every summer college baseball league, Danville fields a roster of college athletes but is not affiliated with particular school.
What are collegiate summer baseball leagues?
Collegiate summer baseball leagues are just as the name suggests — summer baseball leagues that feature college athletes. They each consist of active college athletes who typically have at least one year of college eligibility left.
Danville plays in the Appalachian League, which is comprised of 10 teams from Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. It’s part of the MLB and USA Baseball Prospect Direct Pipeline.
Summer league rosters include players from a number of different colleges. They use wooden bats as opposed to the aluminum bats used in the NCAA. The leagues provide players with excellent exposure to professional scouts.
Sportsbooks have not shied away from school partnerships
A number of colleges have had deals with sportsbooks, including Maryland, Colorado, Michigan State, LSU, Nevada and UNLV. But the details of these sponsorships aren’t always available to the public. That’s the case when it comes to LSU, Michigan State and Maryland.
According to the Associated Press, those three deals went through third-party companies. These firms are set up to sell sponsorships on behalf of the schools, thus deals are hidden from public view. Open record laws do not apply to these companies, per the AP.
Gambling sponsorship left one school in hot water
The University of Colorado and PointsBet last month terminated their partnership. The decision was reportedly mutual after concerns arose surrounding sportsbook partnerships with higher education institutions.
“Both parties are thankful for the joint efforts throughout the relationship and wish the best for each organization going forward,” a statement read.
The original five-year contract, which began in 2020, was worth $1.6 million to the school. But Colorado started to feel pressure earlier this year. At one point, a referral code gave the school $30 for every new PointsBet signup. That deal ended in January.
“[At the time], obviously, we were concerned about the image that the partnership projected from a campus perspective,” CU Intercollegiate Athletics Committee Chair Seth Hornstein told the CU Independent. “CU was the first one to do this.“
Are there any other similar gambling sponsorships?
At this point, gambling sponsorships of college baseball leagues is not common, though they are not unheard of.
The Massachusetts Lottery sponsors the Cape Cod Baseball League, one of the more notable summer leagues. While it’s not a casino, like in the case of Caesars Virginia, it’s still a gambling entity regulated by the state.
Could we see restrictions with college-level leagues that are off-campus?
More than likely, no.
That’s because that while these leagues involve college athletes, they’re not true affiliates of a specific institution.
Time will tell how often we’ll see sportsbook sponsorship deals with individual universities. Professional sports leagues across the country have their own sportsbook affiliates, but it’s a bit trickier when it comes to the college side. States have their own stance on collegiate sports betting, let alone sports betting as a whole. But it’s an issue that is gaining attention from the responsible gambling side of the industry.
Teams from states with bans on sports betting or college-specific sports betting are not allowed to sponsor with gambling companies. But don’t be surprised if more teams in legal sports betting states follow Danville’s lead.
Caesars Virginia temporary casino on the way
Caesars Virginia plans to open doors to its temporary casino this summer. The permanent casino remains on track to open in 2024.
The temporary Caesars location will include 700 slot machines and 25 table games. It will be located at the former Dan River Mills site.
The Caesars casino projects to be a massive boost for the Danville economy. Experts project the casino will bring in $39 million for Danville by 2024. In the next fiscal year alone, officials estimate the temporary casino could bring in $12.1 million in revenue for the city.