Pennsylvania State University came under fire earlier this year for having ads for offshore, unregulated gambling operators on its school newspaper’s website.
A glance on The Daily Collegian website today returns no such links in the same fashion. Did the school remove those links? Not exactly, unfortunately.
PlayPennsylvania dove further into the matter and found these links still on the website, hiding in plain sight for anyone to see with a single mouse click or tap of the finger.
Penn State student newspaper still promotes unregulated gambling
The original story came out in March when Gaming Today reported links to illegal gambling websites on the newspaper sites for both PSU and the University of Iowa.
Links on the PSU Collegian website sat on a page titled “For Students” and included:
Links to “best” online casinos in neighboring states like New Jersey and New York. None of the casinos have licenses to operate in New Jersey, and New York does not allow legal online casinos.
Similar links for online casinos in Florida, while online sports betting and casino gaming both remain illegal in the Sunshine State.
A list of offshore sports betting tout services.
Pennsylvania online casinos and sportsbooks are legal, while Iowa only offers retail casinos in addition to its mobile sportsbooks. With the rise of popularity in both verticals, it’s easy to understand why a school newspaper would accept advertising dollars from purported online casinos.
When visiting the PSU Collegian website today, the “For Students” link on the bottom navigation bar no longer exists. Yet, the URL remains intact, and anyone with a week’s worth of internet marketing experience can see it’s full of spammy links.
Iowa’s The Daily Iowan has similar links on its website. A few of them remain related to gambling, but most of those consist of informational articles, such as casino trends or types of betting wagers. We did find a link to W88, though, an unregulated Vietnamese casino site.
Offshore online casino links listed under new name on PSU website
According to Gaming Today, students run the editorial department of The Daily Collegian, while professionals handle the business side, including marketing. The situation immediately brings a couple of questions to mind:
Did the marketing department know it had spammy links to illegal online casinos on its website?
Why did the website remove the page from its navigation, yet still keep it active on the website and indexed on Google?
Conveniently, the “For Students” page gives us more insight, thanks to the words “Best Daily” displayed on the top left of the webpage. And wouldn’t you know it, the “For Students” link on The Daily Collegian’s homepage has simply changed to read “Best Daily.”
The only difference between the two pages is a disclaimer on the “Best Daily” version: “This post is provided by a third party who may receive compensation from the companies whose products or services are mentioned.”
Ironically, the next link is titled “The Savvy Student.”
Either the marketing department wasn’t savvy enough to remove these links, or someone thought their audience wouldn’t be savvy enough to see through a thinly veiled attempt at hiding them.
Underage gambling is a serious issue for college students
The newspaper’s actions highlight a concerning reality, even in Pennsylvania’s thriving, regulated industry, that unregulated competitors will spare no expense when attempting to find new, unassuming or naive customers. Those customers often do not understand the difference between legal, regulated sites and illegal, offshore ones, including the risks associated with the latter.
But let’s take another step backward and ask if the same goes for those working at The Daily Collegian.
Chances are, the answer is yes. It’s easy for people who don’t actively gamble to struggle with understanding the differences between legal, regulated websites and their offshore counterparts.
Actions can bring unintended consequences, such as a trusting reader clicking on one of these links and thinking they are going to a legal online casino or sportsbook. An American Gaming Association survey from 2020 showed more than half of bettors on illegal sites believed they bet legally.
Furthermore, many PSU students are in the 18-to-20-year-old age bracket, when one is an adult in the court of law, yet cannot gamble at state-regulated online and retail casinos.
At best, promoting offshore sites is a gross oversight by the powers at The Daily Collegian. At worst, it gives readers the impression that it supports and condones underage gambling.
Offshore gambling sites aren’t safe or secure
It’s impossible to separate risk from gambling. That said, gambling on unregulated sites poses additional risks that are simply not worth taking.
Offshore gambling sites do not undergo the same stringency in verifying the safety and security of players’ information and money. The same goes for offering responsible gambling information and proving that their games pay out at a legitimate percentage.
Pennsylvania has a similar issue with retail gambling and the growing prevalence of skill games, which operate in a legal gray area. These games do not operate under the same regulatory guidelines as casino slot machines, nor do they generate tax money that helps local communities in the same way.
Unregulated online casinos and skills games pose similar existential threats to the gambling industry. They create the conditions for fraud and underage gambling while cannibalizing the legal casino industry, and players on unregulated sites cannot guarantee the safety of their financial and personal information.
Gambling may have inherent risks, but those are the wrong ones.
What’s next for The Daily Collegian’s unregulated ads?
Although the situation remains essentially unchanged from March, we know that The Daily Collegian has done something since that time, changing its “For Students” link to “Best Daily.”
The Daily Collegian, like any other publication, is a business that requires revenue to stay operational. However, many other sites generate ad revenue without promoting illegal gambling websites, especially where its readership consists of people below the age of 21.
PlayPennsylvania contacted The Daily Collegian on multiple occasions about its findings and has yet to receive a response. We will continue to monitor the story moving forward.
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