Doug Terfehr, MaximBet’s vice president of brand and communications, said the sportsbook’s decision to expand its NIL offering, which had been restricted to female college athletes in Colorado since sportsbetting.com rebranded itself as MaximBet in September, to men came due to “a massive influx of college basketball athletes wanting to get on the platform.”
He said that most of the men who’ve inquired about the program “know at least one female athlete who’s with us,” adding that these women “have just as much power and influence” on campus as their male counterparts and “what’s been fun is to see it move through an athletic department.”
While MaximBet previously noted that roughly half of its NIL deals on the female side were with Division II and III athletes, Terfehr said the response has tilted about 50% toward Division I among men.
Macho sportsbooks lead the way with women
It’s interesting that Barstool and Maxim, two brands not known for their feminist tendencies, have been more aggressive than other sportsbooks in pursuing NIL deals with female athletes.
MaximBet’s focus has been crucial in attempting to square NIL allocations with Title IX, a roadmap that’s been made all the more challenging for student-athletes and schools to navigate based on the NCAA and Congress’ decision to punt regulatory enforcement to more localized jurisdictions.
“It was a lot of what drove our decision” to offer the NIL program exclusively to females at first, said Terfehr. “We didn’t think there was a balance out there. That was our entire intent.”
MaximBet’s student-athletes receive $500 for each four-month commitment to promoting the brand on social media, as well as attending parties and other events. Athletes under 21 aren’t eligible for the program, since it involves a sports betting brand.
To this end, Terfehr is careful to note, “There’s no requirement for them to promote the sports betting side of our company. We’re really a lifestyle brand. It’s really just to bring brand awareness and connect us to the local community versus, ‘Check out these lines.’”
Northern Quest Resort & Casino, a tribal property located near Spokane, Wash., is toeing that same line in its recently announced NIL deal with Gonzaga hoops star Drew Timme. The casino’s executive director of operations, Kevin Zenishek, told CO Bets that Timme’s involvement will be “mostly all brand-focused” and that he and his handlebar mustache will be participating in “specifically no promos” for the tribe’s sportsbook, which will open to the public this Saturday, Dec. 4, after a VIP opening the day before.
NCAA ‘putting the laissez in laissez faire’
When asked how Timme might run afoul of NCAA regulations in his promotion of the casino, Vic DeNardi, head of NIL and education for Draft.ly, said, “Anything that would have him actually wagering on a sport, like who’s gonna place the first bet. There’s a provision in play for the NCAA that says you’re not allowed to wager on sports.”
But by simply appearing in ads for the casino, Timme is granted more leeway than active professional athletes.
“The NFL has said you can’t do gambling or CBD ads,” said DeNardi, whose previous stints include security coordinator for the NFL and assistant director of enforcement for the NCAA.
“President [Mark] Emmert is pushing Congress to create a federal NIL bill,” DeNardi said of the NCAA’s stance, or lack thereof, on NIL regulations. “But that’s putting the laissez in laissez faire. They [the NCAA] are a national body. They can create their own policies, and the best they could do after 18 months of studying the NIL issue was to suspend their rules.
“For the sake of NIL deals, what the NCAA did is they just suspended all their rules. The only things that are really left is no pay for play — no straight ‘you’re getting $500 just for being on the team’ — and no quid pro quo from a recruiting sense. They never really addressed those spaces. If your state has a law that addresses any of this, you have to follow state law, and if there are conference or school policies, you have to follow those.”
‘A new NIL arms race’
To date, 28 states have passed NIL laws, with 21 in effect as of Oct. 1, said attorney and former All-American collegiate swimmer Julie Sommer during a recent Drake Group webinar on the intersection of the emerging NIL market and Title IX, which requires that male and female athletes be treated equally from a monetary and promotional standpoint by the universities they attend. Some states, like California, have gender equity laws that mirror Title IX baked into their overarching NIL ordinances. But, nationwide, the legal variance is such that, in a followup Q&A, the Drake Group stated, “The complex current reality of varying state laws and institutional policies further shows the pressing need for Congress to produce a comprehensive, uniform policy applicable to colleges and universities in all states.”
During the webinar, Gloria Nevarez, commissioner of the West Coast Conference (of which Gonzaga is a member), called the hodgepodge of current NIL requirements “the Wild West” before wondering aloud, “If 60-70% of the deals are around football, how do schools level that playing field for women?”
Prior to Nevarez’s comments, the Drake Group’s president, Donna Lopiano, expressed wariness about the gray area between pay for play — which is strictly prohibited — and a recruiter touting a school’s NIL prowess in general. To this end, NIL-focused booster groups have been set up at schools like the University of Oregon and University of Washington to try and stockpile the most weaponry in what Lopiano called “a new NIL arms race.”
As for Timme’s arrangement with Northern Quest and others like it, the Drake Group, in its followup Q&A, again urged Congress to establish a federal NIL policy, writing, “We can amplify any concern with regard to the current environment in which gambling entities are compensating athletes through NIL deals and athletic departments through sponsorships. History tells us that this intertwining of sports and gambling means that we are a heartbeat away from match-fixing scandals. Other countries are far ahead of us, having installed national sports gambling safeguards, while the USA has none.
“Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared the federal law prohibiting sports gambling unconstitutional in 2018, Congress has failed to come back with the legislative fix clearly outlined by the Court. As a result, we are in the midst of gambling regulation chaos created by a proliferation of differing state laws and extensive internet and television advertising of gambling houses.”