Maintain scrutiny on lottery, alcohol deals

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 10 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:39 am in
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By The Gazette Editorial Board

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Last year, it was a deal with Anheuser-Busch allowing the University of Iowa football program’s Tiger Hawk logo to appear on Anheuser-Busch promotional materials in bars, restaurants and grocery stores in return for $45,000 a year from the beer company. It was wrapped within a “drink responsibly” campaign.

This year, the latest promotion with the Iowa Lottery involves all three state public universities’ college football programs. The UI collected $75,000 this season, Iowa State $60,000 and the University of Northern Iowa $20,000, according to Iowa Lottery contracts obtained by The Des Moines Register.

So gambling and alcohol promotions, even small deals like these, clearly are tied to public, tax-supported institutions.

That strikes many critics as an unhealthy and potentially dangerous relationship. The NCAA, which oversees major intercollegiate athletics, is not keen on gambling-business deals with its members, although it no longer sends official admonishments and bans such practices only with its own championship events.

We agree that the message sent by these arrangements is mixed, especially considering, for one, the UI’s considerable efforts in recent years to combat a high level of alcohol abuse in its student body and fans attending football games. And if gambling’s darkside leads to players throwing games or worse, that’s a threat to take seriously, as history has shown.

That said, the deals struck by our universities involves relatively paltry sums, compared to their athletic budgets of millions. The Iowa Lottery is state-approved, state-run, and the entire highly regulated gambling industry in this state has a pretty squeaky clean record of keeping criminal elements at bay.

While we don’t think these deals are anywhere close to being financially critical for the survival of UI, ISU and UNI athletic programs, they at least warrant annual scrutiny. If they grow in number and amounts, what is the justification and what are the risks?

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