Gambling remains one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with multinational corporations investing billions of dollars to attract customers. So it is normal that a lot of young people worldwide are attracted to sports betting. Some studies show that almost 57% of males age between 18 and 24 and 39% of females of same age reported gambling in some form. With student-athletes, those numbers are slightly higher and this is not surprising, given their background and interest in sports.
The NCAA issued a statement regarding sports betting: “To protect the integrity of college athletics contests, NCAA regulations prohibit student-athletes from betting money on any sporting event (college, professional or otherwise) in which the NCAA conducts collegiate championships (Bylaw 10.3). Violations of this regulation can result in a student-athlete losing his or her athletics eligibility”. So the NCAA is officially against sports gambling, even to the point of relocating some championship events from New Jersey in 2012 for example, when the state passed a law that allowed wagering on college events.
So where is the problem? It is obvious that sports betting can potentially harm the student-athletes and the integrity of the game. The NCAA’s sports wagering rules are in effect for a good reason. History has taught us that gambling and athletes don’t mix. Look at what happened to Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 White Sox throwing the series, or Pete Rose betting on his own game. On the other hand, the NCAA should think about some of their policies. Everybody except for the student-athletes are getting paid for their performance in the NCAA. Currently, the only way student-athletes can get paid is through scholarships. The coaching staff, the advertisers, the television networks, the universities and many more are cashing in week after week. Some high-end coaches get paid millions. So it‘s normal that some student-athletes might get caught into sports betting and fixing scandals.
Also, sports betting on NCAA events is a really profitable business. Some bookmakers reported that the betting intensity on final NCAA tournaments is second only to Super Bowl, producing $60 million to 70$ million rollovers every year. The NCAA has been adamantly against legal and regulated sports betting, but they are not against gambling in general. They just think sports betting is harming the games integrity, which is understandable. Other forms of gambling, such as playing in a brick-and-mortar or online casinos, aren’t directly prohibited by the association’s rules, although they might be frowned upon. That’s why it would be understandable if college athletes preferred gambling online, as the anonymity of online casinos protects them from a possible backlash from NCAA or the public.
At the moment, the NCAA is trying to fight against the nationwide efforts to legalize sports betting. Tom McMillen, the president and CEO of the NCAA Division I Athletic Directors Association, said a few days ago: “Unpaid college athletes are especially vulnerable to large amounts of money flowing through their game and that there is a serious concern as to where all this new money from sports betting would go.” But the all mighty NCAA forgets one thing. There’s already an established black market for sports betting via illegal offshore sportsbooks, where tens of billions of dollars are wagered. And betting on college games is a big business. Still, the NCAA appears to want to stop its inclusion in a regulated US market, despite the evidence that sports betting is good both for its underlying business and integrity. So, if the NCAA manages to carve-out sports betting on their events it will be both counter-productive and really difficult to procure. A regulated sports market would in fact be better for the games integrity and would kill the “black market”. Also, betting on NCAA games drives interest in the games and interest itself is great for NCAA’s business in general.
It is obvious that the NCAA will not win this fight, and they really should be on the opposite side of this fight. Regulated sports betting can help the NCAA in many ways. It would drive the interest in the competitions, make more profit and at the end with all those new tools in sports betting industry sports-books can give the NCAA more insight into the game integrity. The NCAA should embrace legal and regulated wagering with the smile, not fight against it.