NCAA members consider ‘liberalized’ sports betting rules

Members of the NCAA – the large number of colleges and universities with sports programs – will weigh this year on whether to ease up a little on legal sports betting by student-athletes and coaches.

May 9, 2024 • 5:27 p.m. ET

• 4 minutes of reading

Members of the NCAA – the large number of colleges and universities with sports programs – will weigh this year on whether to ease up a little on legal sports betting by student-athletes and coaches.

While the NCAA is unlikely to start letting college quarterbacks mash up their Overs and Unders at various sports betting sites, the sanctioning body and its members are having a “discussion” about whether their betting guidelines are correct , an official said Wednesday.

The NCAA’s rule regarding sports betting is that student-athletes, coaches and other personnel are prohibited from betting on or providing inside information on sports sponsored by the NCAA at any level. either. This could mean a college athlete could violate regulations by betting on an NFL game.

Time for change?

NCAA CEO Mark Hicks says the group and its members question whether the framework is properly calibrated. The first step is to decide whether they should have a similar rule for the three divisions of the association, which tend to have different regulations for everything except gambling.

The second step this year is to discuss whether the rules should be “liberalized,” Hicks said, such as allowing student-athletes and staff members to bet on college and professional sports.

“Regardless, this conversation will continue throughout this year and we’ll see where it goes,” Hicks said during a panel at the SBC Summit North America conference in New Jersey.

The conversation comes as the NCAA and professional leagues grapple with several integrity-related controversies that have prompted them to discipline athletes and take other steps to try to adapt to the world of legal sports betting widely distributed.

One of NCAA President Charlie Baker’s initiatives has been to push state regulators to ban prop betting on college players to protect student-athletes from abuse and harassment by bettors. Several states have done so, although at least one, Montana, has opposed the request.

“This decision, to advocate for banning side bets on players, was actually generated by the idea of ​​trying to take that focus off the backs of specific student-athletes,” Hicks said.

The NCAA also continues to see cases of student-athletes betting on themselves (although these aren’t always made public), Hicks said, which is another reason for the push to ban props college players.

Nonetheless, the NCAA understands the risks that betting on college players could simply move to the unregulated market if it is prohibited in the regulated market. While the organization operates in legal markets, it believes it is necessary to go after illegal operators.

“That needs to happen, too,” Hicks said. “It’s not just one or the other.”

Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference (MAC), was also on the SBC panel and said there are “levels” of harm related to gaming. However, he said ensuring the integrity of games was his main concern.

“This is essential,” he told the audience.

The problem of prohibition

Like Hicks, Steinbrecher recognized the risk that bettors would simply migrate to offshore books and bet on college players’ props anyway, and told the audience he was “not a big Prohibition guy “.

“What concerns me is not to push it underground,” said the commissioner. “And how can we make sure we keep things on top of the board, because that’s where we’re able to regulate them or discern if there are problems.”

Seeking to ban betting on college players isn’t the only action the NCAA is taking. Hicks noted that the NCAA has revised its student-athlete eligibility rules related to gambling, trying to separate more technical violations from those that create integrity issues, such as a player betting on himself. That conversation could continue, Hicks suggested.

Additionally, in addition to concerns about student-athlete well-being related to sports betting by others, the NCAA has had to deal with players, coaches, and staff betting on their own.

Hicks said he recently reviewed a case involving a coach at a Division I school who had placed 9,500 bets over the past eight months or so, including 600 on college athletics and about 60 on his institution, but not on sport he coaches.

“This individual knows the rules inside and out,” Hicks said. “So what motivates this choice to put themselves and probably their career and their institution in danger? »

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