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NCAA Player Prop Sports Betting Ban Remains Complex Issue

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NCAA managing director of enforcement Mark Hicks is well aware that a nationwide ban on prop bets featuring student-athletes could lead to an increase in illicit sports betting activity. 

However, NCAA president Charlie Baker has been at the forefront of trying to eliminate those player prop sports betting markets to curtail harassment and student-athletes wagering on themselves. And, as Marks noted, the NCAA would like to see the illegal offshore market eliminated as well.  

“It might happen. My guess is some people will (bet offshore). But the alternative for us is to do nothing,” Marks told LSR at SBC Summit North America. “So we feel like we need a strong policy directed toward removing that target off student-athletes’ backs. 

“At the same time, we absolutely are encouraging federal law enforcement to go after the unregulated black market. It’s not either that one or this one. It’s why can’t we be doing both?” 

Addressing sports betting prop issue

In late March, Baker made it known that the NCAA is seeking a nationwide ban on player props featuring student-athletes. The Sports Betting Regulators Association also addressed the issue in a meeting.

The NCAA said Friday that “one in three high-profile athletes receive abusive messages from someone with a betting interest.” Also, in sports with high volumes of betting, “15%-25% of all abuse surrounding that competition is betting related.”  

Baker’s political background has allowed the NCAA to be more focused on conversations regarding sports betting policy than it had been in the past. 

How jurisdictions have handled ban

Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio and Vermont have all agreed to the ban (the final three on their own). Wyoming appears to be next. The Montana Lottery said a ban is not in its immediate plans given it has been a non-issue in the state. 

“I’m kind of undecided (on a ban),” Mid-American Conference (MAC) commissioner Jon Steinbrecher told LSR. “My concern is are we driving them somewhere else where we can’t figure it out? I think it’s a worthy conversation, and I understand the rationale behind it.” 

One state regulator told LSR: “Do you really believe people will voluntarily comply and not gamble anymore? There’s always going to be a–h—s on the internet. First, we’re banning college player props. At what point does it stop?” 

How New Jersey deals with threats

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement recently sent new guidelines to its state institutions, according to NCAA assistant director of government relations Austin Meo

The institutions were directed to report all instances of harassment to their local authorities. It would then be the responsibility of the authorities to pass the information to the regulator, and other agencies that are in play.  

“Different states take different tacts on how best to deal with harassment,” Hicks said. 

More state legislation on harassment

New Jersey and North Carolina have pending legislation regarding potential bans. Maryland, New Mexico and West Virginia have taken steps to protect student-athletes from harassment. 

States like New York and Massachusetts prohibited prop bets on student-athletes prior to launching their respective legal sports betting markets. 

Penn: Prop bet ban mostly ‘non-issue’

The Ohio Casino Control Commission said college player props accounted for only 1.35% of the state’s sports betting wagers in 2023. Therefore, sportsbooks do not view the ban as a massive hit to their bottom lines. 

“I would view it largely as a non-issue,” Penn Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden said during the operator’s latest earnings call. 

A financial note from Citizens JMP Securities said banning college players props could cost sportsbooks roughly $200 million in annual revenue. 

NCAA education programs imperative

The NCAA continues to fine tune its sports betting education programs for 500,000 current and prospective student-athletes. 

Late last year, the governing body launched its first sports wagering e-learning module. Additionally, compliance staffers provided required education, which is often reinforced by coaches. 

Student-athletes across the country also receive gambling education and awareness training from EPIC Risk Management. The NCAA has also continually updated its penalties for those found to be in violation of its sports betting policies. 

“The best part of our education process is be thoughtful about who you’re talking to,” Steinbrecher said when asked about protecting inside information given many student-athletes are living on campus. “And what you’re talking about, and who’s asking you questions? Are they really your friends and just curious, or are they people that are pumping you for information? What occurs in the locker room stays in the locker room.”

NCAA hopes to start education earlier

Hicks said they also want to start educating even younger prospects. 

The NCAA has a College Basketball Academy featuring 1,200 students, many of whom will be future college athletes. 

“So if you’re signing up to say, ‘I want to be a college athlete,’ that’s when those resources, at least from us, are going to start hitting,” Hicks said. “And we’ll continue to update and add to our library of resources.” 

Sports betting tutelage could improve

An ESPN report found that only four of 24 Power 5 public universities it reviewed “had policies that explicitly warn student-athletes of potential legal consequences.”

“It seems to me to make sense that student-athletes are educated on their various state laws,” Hicks told ESPN.

Several college sports betting scandals

Nevertheless, the NCAA was forced to deal with a plethora of scandals, including Alabama and Iowa. The Temple University men’s basketball team is currently under investigation for possible point shaving. 

Marks also mentioned a file featuring an unnamed Division I coach who placed 9,500 bets over the last eight months, including 600 on college games, and 60 on their institution (though not their team). 

“That individual is absolutely educated on the rules,” Hicks said. “So what goes into that choice to put themselves at risk and probably their career and their institution?”

Proxy betting extremely tough to track

In the Iowa sports betting probe, some student-athletes were found (through an alleged illegal search) to have made wagers on accounts in their parents’ names. 

“Nobody pulls harder for prohibited bettor software than us,” Hicks said. “But if you’re using proxies, that’s not necessarily going to catch it. So other than really educating and bringing awareness to the rules and potentially the consequences, that’s all we can really do right now is make sure they’re aware of what the line is. 

“We have a good relationship with a number of the operators — and certainly, the regulators — and we just keep trying to tighten the screws on the regulatory ecosystem, to make sure we’re trying to stay out in front of that as much as possible. But it is a challenge for the industry.” 

Sports betting harassment hits players

Marks said there were approximately 2,000 incidents of student-athlete harassment regarding sports betting. He noted that some losing bettors had sent Venmo requests to specific athletes. 

Prior to the Ohio ban, Dayton University men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant had been vocal about the harassment his players faced. 

University of North Carolina forward Armando Bacot said during the NCAA Tournament the sports betting culture had “gotten out of hand.” 

“It’s terrible,” Bacot said. “Even at the last game, I guess I didn’t get enough rebounds or something. I thought I played pretty good last game, but I looked at my DMs, and I got, like, over 100 messages from people telling me I sucked and stuff like that because I didn’t get enough rebounds.” 

More athletes betting on themselves

Former Louisiana State University football player Kayshon Boutte was arrested in late January on charges involving illegal sports betting. 

Boutte allegedly made nearly 9,000 wagers while he was underage, including betting on himself. 

It is worth noting that even in the complex age of NIL, few student-athletes are making as much as Jontay Porter, whose two-way NBA contract was valued at $411,794 for 2023-24 when he was banned for life.

“It just adds another layer of pressure to the contest,” said Marks, who was speaking generally about athletes betting on themselves. He said he hears about similar occurrences about once a month. “And, at some point, it does feel like it threatens the purity of the game.” 

Next steps for NCAA on sports betting

Hicks said the next step is deciding on whether all three divisions of the NCAA should have uniform gambling policies. 

There is also a question of whether student-athletes should be allowed to wager on college and professional sports.

“I’m not a big fan of student-athletes being able to bet on sports,” Steinbrecher said. “I think you can maybe have some sort of conversation about what are the appropriate penalties. I’m not sure a lifetime ban on the first offense — particularly if you’re not betting on yourself. But I think a clear line of demarkation is pretty understandable.” 

Baker told ESPN he would welcome a federal ban on prop betting in collegiate sports. “Oh I would love if the federal government banned prop betting,” Baker said.

Should any policies be changed?

Steinbrecher was asked what policies he’d like to change. 

“I’d like to see more uniform standards,” Steinbrecher told LSR. “The state by state thing — I understand it — but it can be challenging. I really think the key to all of this is greater sharing of data among the operators and the regulatory agencies. And they can do it in a way that they can anonymize individuals. And then it’s much easier to spot who’s doing what and where through the algorithms.” 

The post NCAA Player Prop Sports Betting Ban Remains Complex Issue appeared first on Legal Sports Report.

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