Posted on May 3 , 2019, by Travis Pulver
When the Supreme Court struck down the law prohibiting legalized gambling everywhere but Nevada, change was inevitably in the wind. It didn’t take long for the major professional sports leagues in North American to embrace this new reality. But as could be expected, the NCAA has been a little bit slower.
However, that may be changing if a recent announcement is any indication.
On Friday, the NCAA announced that it had lifted the ban on states with legalized single-game gambling hosting championship competitions. The policy was suspended by the NCAA’s board of governors last year following the Supreme Court’s ruling.
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With several states having legalized gambling since the ruling and many more working on legislation, the policy was soon going to become more trouble than it was worth. It was one thing when Nevada was the only state impacted by the policy. Currently, there are eight states that have passed legislation and almost every other state is working on legislation that will allow some form of gambling.
But there are six that are not working toward any form of legalization, Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Utah. They all have laws that prohibit gambling on sports; Utah even has it written into the state constitution.
However, with the revenue that can be raised by legalizing gambling, it is not going to be surprising to see more states get something passed sooner rather than later. Under the old policy, this would mean the NCAA would be severely restricted on where championship events can take place.
In making the announcement, the NCAA made it clear that they are not wholeheartedly endorsing gambling. They reiterated their desire for the federal government to regulate sports wagering and expressed a desire for there to be an exemption on legal betting as it pertains to college sports.
But there is currently no federal gambling legislation under consideration.
NCAA President Mark Emmert also made it clear that athletes are not to be involved in gambling, legally or illegally. He also talked about wanting some sort of ‘integrity service’ in place so that gambling lines can be monitored, and suspicious activity discovered sooner rather than later:
“Another thing that we’re moving forward on aggressively is we need to have integrity services in place where we can effectively monitor what’s going on in all the various sports books so that, when we see inexplicable behavior on a betting line, we know what’s going on there, and we can act accordingly.”
Shortly after the Supreme Court took action, the NBA, MLB, and NFL began lobbying for an integrity fee to help the league monitor gambling activities so that they could insure the outcome of games were not being impacted. But the idea never really gained traction since it was viewed as the leagues simply trying to cash in on a new revenue stream.
But it would not be shocking if the NCAA were to hold out a bit longer for some sort of integrity overwatch. With the ever-present concern over schools and/or alumni bribing players to attend, it is not hard to imagine players being tempted to do something that could impact games.
Does all of this mean the NCAA is warming up to legalized gambling? Not at all. Failing to adjust would put the NCAA at risk of painting themselves into a corner where ever championship event has to be in either Utah or Alaska.