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Petition demands end to MSU’s gambling deal, in line with interim president's goal

April 4, 2023
A sports gambling website on Feb. 19, 2020.
A sports gambling website on Feb. 19, 2020.

A group of MSU faculty has begun circulating a petition demanding an end to the university athletics department’s controversial $9 million partnership with Caesars Sportsbook. This comes shortly after new rules from the American gambling industry’s internal regulatory group which threaten the deal.

The petition was first posted around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, by 4:30, it had 154 signatures. The vast majority of those signatures came from current and former faculty, with the rest coming mostly from current students and parents.

Community sustainability professor John Kerr, who led petition, said they were inspired to act by the mental health issues they worked to accommodate following the mass shooting on MSU’s campus. He said while he and his colleagues were working to help struggling students, he saw the deal as “doing the opposite by sponsoring online gambling,” which can be addictive and unhealthy for developing brains

"With our partnership with Caesars, this is who MSU is: selling out for profit at the expense of our students’ well-being," the petition says.

Kerr shared it with colleagues, including MSU’s Director of Global Ideas Allan Hruska, who further shared it with administrators, including interim provost Thomas Jeitschko.

In Jeitschko’s emailed response to the petition, he said “the petition’s aim is exactly what is being worked on now by the president as she indicated in her remarks to the faculty senate."

Interim president Teresa Woodruff's remarks occurred at a January Faculty Senate meeting, where she questioned the Caesars partnership and said she would be ordering her staff to look into the matter.

The deal with Caesers was not negotiated by Woodruff. It is overseen by the MSU Athletics Department, specifically Athletic Director Alan Haller

The deal includes broadcasts and video advertisements for Caesars during games, emails to MSU’s database of students, free tickets to games and seats on teams’ private planes for Caesars employees, as well as the non-specific clause which allows the company to “Caesarize” the tailgating spaces outside of Spartan Stadium.

Beyond that, the specifics of the deal are unclear, as a sports-marketing firm acts as a middleman between MSU and Caesars to ensure the contract is not subject to public records requests.

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