NCAA to Thoroughly Examine Sports Betting, Colleges Want Integrity Fees
A few days after SCOTUS made their landmark ruling on May 14th, the NCAA weighed in on the decision and echoed what professional sports leagues were saying in regards to the need for federal regulations on sports betting. However, since then, the NCAA discussed amongst their brain trust what approach they should take in regards to the rapidly growing landscape of sports betting. As a result of those discussions, the NCAA is creating an internal team to study how legalized sports betting might affect collegiate sports, schools and students.
In a statement released by the NCAA on Thursday, July 19th, chief legal officer Donald Remy made the following comments about how the Association needs to evolve and expand their sports betting efforts:
“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains. With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”
Part of this evolution has already taken place by the NCAA as they temporarily suspended their longstanding policy on allowing championships to be held in states that have legalized sports betting. According to a May 2018 press release, the NCAA announced the following:
“Also in response to the Supreme Court decision, the NCAA Board of Governors suspended the Association’s championships policy related to sports wagering. The board’s decision will ensure championship location continuity by temporarily allowing NCAA championship events to occur in states that offer sports wagering.”
At the time, Nevada was the only state that suffered from this policy. But, with more and more states legalizing sports betting in the last 2 months, the NCAA would lose out on some serious collegiate markets, like the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, if they upheld this policy. With that said, Nevada, which has long desired to have NCAA championships, can now hold them due to this suspended policy and are actively pursuing opportunities.
Despite the Association making this change, the NCAA will continue their restrictions on gambling advertising and sponsorships of collegiate championships and football bowl games. Additionally, they still firmly hold to their rules that no athletes, school employees, team staffs or coaches can bet on sports.
With the landscape of sports betting dramatically changing, the NCAA will continue to look out for the student athletes. Senior Vice President of Championships and Alliances, Joni Comstock, made the following comments according to New York CBS Local:
“With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”
How much money is wagered on College Sports?
It’s hard to get an accurate number on how much money Americans bet on all collegiate sports. However, we can get a better idea of a total handle for college sports by taking a look at the billions of dollars that are wagered on some of college’s most popular events:
The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimated that Americans wagered over $10 million dollars on the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament also referred to as “March Madness.” However, only 3% of that total ($300 million) was wagered legally. In March of 2017, Nevada sportsbooks took in almost $430 million dollars on basketball, according to ESPN. However, that was a combined handle for NBA and NCAAB wagers.
Placing bets on tournament games wasn’t the only way people spent money on March Madness. In 2017, 24 million American adults spent roughly $3 billion on college basketball tournament pools.
College football is the only sport to rival the NFL in terms of popularity with sports bettors. It’s believed that college football can actually draw at least half of the total handle for football wagers at sportsbooks. According to a 2015 NBC News report, industry experts believe that at least $60 to $70 billion dollars is illegally wagered on NCAAF each year.
In 2017, Nevada took in a total of $4.87 billion dollars in sports bets, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. It’s the 8th straight year that the handle has gone up. College football reportedly led the way with a $1.7 billion dollar handle.
Colleges Want a Piece of the Sports Betting Pie
The NCAA isn’t actively pursuing integrity fees, but they wouldn’t be opposed to it. In fact, the MLB and NBA have been whispering into the ears of the NCAA and various universities about the benefits and the importance of integrity fees. As of now, the NCAA is leaving the topic of “fees” to each university.
With that said, there have been a handful of universities throughout the country that have publicly shared their desires for what essentially amounts to a kickback or “integrity fee” from sports betting.
University of Pittsburgh (Pitt Panthers) Athletic Director Heather Lyke expressed a desire for fees in a letter to the state’s Gaming Control Board:
“In light of that, appropriate impact fees should be paid to affected colleges and universities to cover that cost.”
Penn State’s President Eric Barron wanted a ban on all sports wagers pertaining to Pennsylvania’s collegiate teams for the next two years in order to allow the universities enough time to prepare for sports betting. He also expressed a similar desire as Pitt’s Heather Lyke for fees.
Perhaps, no collegiate-integrity fee situation has been more of a hot mess than in the state of West Virginia.
Soon after SCOTUS made their ruling, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice found himself in a dilemma as he tried to support the idea of an integrity fee for professional and collegiate entities. Most notably, West Virginia University and Marshall. Justice put the onus of paying the fee on the casinos and not the state. Of course, he was met with staunch opposition from the casinos and state officials. Ultimately, the integrity fee was shot down and not included in the state’s sports betting legislation. WVU and Marshall were a bit upset over the abrupt turnaround, but they remain the two schools with the closest chance at getting fees to date.
The NCAA and Colleges Have the Wrong Perspective on Sports Betting
Personally, I think the NCAA and many universities have the wrong perspective. For starters, they all make enough money to compensate for whatever increase of expenses that may or may not arise due to monitoring sports betting. In fact, the public cries for financial assistance is really a smokescreen to cover up the true intentions here – greediness. In my opinion, these schools are just trying to get more money. For example, West Virginia University generated $1.1 billion dollars in total revenue during 2017. Please tell me how they can’t afford to monitor sports wagers on their school’s collegiate events.
Secondly, I would like to point out a perspective that I fully agree with – “choice.” The American Gaming Association’s CEO Geoff Freeman made the following comments about how the NCAA and colleges have a choice on how to handle sports betting, according to CBSSports.com:
“The implications are significant. Colleges now have a choice. The NCAA has a choice. Keep your head in the sand or come into the modern age, embrace the technology, utilize the resources that are available to track all the bets that are placed in order to protect the integrity of the games.”
Instead of bellyaching and complaining over sports betting being legal, embrace the changing landscape and use the technology that’s available to really protect the integrity of college sports and the universities. In fact, this could really make the NCAA more transparent and we all know how they’ve not been the most forthcoming of institutions over the last few years.
Let’s take a look at a stunning piece of information that you don’t hear universities or the NCAA talking about. In 2016, an NCAA survey asked roughly 22,400 athletes if they wagered on sports and violated the NCAA rules. The results were very eye opening as 24% of male athletes and 5% of female athletes admitted under anonymity that they bet on sports within the previous year. Even more surprising was that 11% of NCAAF players and 5% of NCAAB male players admitted to betting on their respective sports, but not the games they played in. The last finding from this survey that really stands out is that 54% of male athletes and 31% of female athletes believe that sports betting is harmless.
And, you wonder why the NCAA or universities don’t talk about this survey? Keep in mind, all of these athletes were placing bets during a time when sports betting was illegal in this country other than Nevada.
Final Thoughts: Ignorance and Scare Tactics
My favorite take on the relationship between colleges and the NCAA with sports betting comes from Alabama’s football coach Nick Saban who made the following comments to CBS Sports:
“If everyone is going to be able to instantly bet on their own as to whether this guy is going to be able to make a field goal or whether they’re going to score a touchdown in the red area, that could be a problem. It could create tremendous negative feedback social media-wise. What if the guy misses?”
Saban’s comments reflect an overall ignorance toward sports betting that a lot of people are perpetuating. But, this line of thinking isn’t just limited to ignorance. It extends further into the realm of scare tactics. All of the professional sports leagues are spewing that sports betting will hurt the integrity of their game. In fact, some NFL executives and owners are claiming that sports betting could hurt TV ratings and threaten the wellbeing of players.
But, that’s not all. You also have organizations that represent colleges proclaiming that legalized sports betting will inevitably lead to collegiate betting scandals like point shaving. Once again, another scare tactic to try and rile up the masses and hinder the growth of sports betting.
Bottom line, with legalized sports betting comes a better, more thorough system for checking betting patterns, line movement and preventing scandals. It’s the exact opposite of what these people are trying to scare the masses into thinking.
Illegal sports betting is a shady business with unscrupulous characters. Yes, there’s a chance that some of these characters could end up in the ocean of legal sports betting. However, the number of criminals and questionable people will be far less, in the spotlight of legal sports betting, than what’s currently going on in the shadows of illegal sports betting. Stop the cycle of ignorance and scare tactics by learning the facts.
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