Ever since the legalization of sports betting in various states across the United States and the subsequent collaboration between sports leagues and sportsbooks, it was only a matter of time before the NCAA followed suit.
Although that moment has not yet arrived, recent statements made by NCAA president Charlie Baker alluded to its imminent arrival. Speaking at an event called The Future of College Sports, Baker acknowledged the significant opportunity presented by entering the sports betting arena, as reported by Forbes.
This exploration into monetizing sports betting partnerships by the NCAA comes at a time when member schools are severing their own ties with sportsbook apps.
LSU and Michigan State have recently initiated the process of terminating their agreements with Caesars, effectively ending Caesars’ last-known partnerships with U.S. colleges. Additionally, both Colorado and Maryland terminated their partnerships with PointsBet within the past few months.
These decisions by schools to cut ties with betting sponsors were prompted by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal’s call to action, urging schools to distance themselves from such associations due to the potential risks of problem gambling among young individuals. The American Gaming Association also prohibited its member sportsbooks from entering into college partnerships, emphasizing the concern over underage gambling.
A survey conducted by the NCAA in May revealed that 58 percent of college students aged 18 to 22 participated in at least one “sports betting activity” within the past year. This statistic further highlights the possibility of underage betting and the conflicting message that promoting gambling to college students may convey.
Considering the recent gambling scandals that have shaken the NCAA, the timing of Baker’s comments is rather disconcerting. Nevertheless, he merely stated a reality. As long as sportsbooks continue to profit from bets placed on NCAA events, the NCAA will inevitably seek a share of the revenue. However, the recent developments underscore the NCAA’s lack of preparedness for such a partnership.
Efforts must be made to safeguard students and student-athletes when sportsbook revenues start pouring in, likely through avenues such as advertising and access to data. Athletic departments need better education on what is permissible, and stringent regulations regarding the time and manner in which betting can be promoted should be established. These measures are only the beginning of what needs to be done.
Failure to implement appropriate measures could potentially jeopardize the integrity of NCAA games and undo the ongoing efforts to protect students.