The University of Southern California — more commonly referred to as USC — last week named the Pechanga Resort Casino as the Official Resort & Casino of the school’s athletics department. The news came with backlash.
In a first of its kind agreement in the state of California, USC announced the designation of the Pechanga Resort Casino as its Official Resort & Casino of the USC Trojans. The resort, owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, has in exchange committed $200,000 per year to a USC scholarship fund.
The Pechanga Resort, effective immediately, is the Official Resort & Casino of the USC football team, men’s and women’s basketball programs, USC Trojans Radio Network, and USC Athletics digital and social media platforms.
We are thrilled to announce this inspiring partnership with Pechanga Resort and Casino,” said USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn. “The future of our partnership is so bright because of our shared dedication to the development of young people and positively impacting our community.
“This relationship is much more than the typical sponsorship agreement, and we are extremely excited to set a new industry standard in this space. We’re grateful to Pechanga leadership for supporting our university and student-athletes,” Bohn added.
USC remains embattled in the 2018 college admissions bribery scandal. Earlier this month, the trial of casino executive Gamal “Aziz” Abdelaziz began.
Aziz, who has been employed in C-level capacities at Wynn Macau, Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts, and Caesars Entertainment, is charged with bribing his daughter’s entry to USC by way of a $300,000 contribution made to the university.
Federal authorities say Rick Singer masterminded a college admissions criminal network that included university coaches who accepted bribes for falsely recruiting high school students to their rosters. Four USC coaches or athletic personnel were indicted in the scandal.
Aziz has denied any wrongdoing, his attorneys arguing in court that it’s no crime to make a philanthropic donation to a university. But the scandal has nonetheless landed a blackeye on the university.
USC now naming a casino as an official sponsor rubbed some the wrong way.
Why would we need an official casino?” asked one Twitter user in response to USC’s announcement of the Pechanga sponsorship. “I’m sure they wrote a check for this endorsement. What a joke.”
“Really? What’s next?” asked a follower of the USC Trojans Twitter account. “This is insane,” opined another. “This is weird.”
We are proud to announce @PechangaCasino as the Official Resort & Casino of the USC Trojans!
The agreement establishes a university-tribal education alliance and creates an annual scholarship fund.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) September 27, 2021
Gaming Firms, Universities Partner
USC isn’t the first, and likely not the last, higher education institution to strike a sponsorship pact with a casino or gaming-related business.
Last November, DraftKings and UNLV revealed that the iGaming and sports betting operator had been designated as the primary sponsor for the school’s Center for Gaming Innovation. The DraftKings Gaming Innovation Studio on the Las Vegas campus teaches interested students the ins and outs of the expanding interactive gaming industry.
And earlier this month, the University of Denver revealed a marketing deal with SuperBook Sports, the retail and mobile sports betting unit owned by the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. The agreement allows SuperBook Sports to advertise during the university’s sporting events.
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