While sports wagering in the US has skyrocketed over the past several months, perhaps one issue has been overlooked that is now drawing some concern.
Last Thursday an NCAA official voiced opinion regarding sports betting on the performance of individual college athletes while suggesting that gambling regulators consider restrictions on such wagers, known as proposition wagers, to protect the integrity of the games.
While speaking at the Sports Betting USA 2020 online seminar, Naima Stevenson-Starks, the NCAA’s vice president for law, policy, and governance, expressed concern about so-called “prop bets” involving college athletes.
By definition, this type of bet measures whether a designated player will or will not surpass a certain threshold during a game, For example, whether a quarterback will throw three touchdowns or not or whether a running back will rush for 100 yards or less.
Unlike the professional leagues, we are now talking about student-athletes attending class with people who may be betting on their efforts on the field or the court . That’s a concern. If you can think about missing a field goal or a free throw that might make the difference in a result, that’s not the most settling thought.
The timing of the concern might be related to the recent growth of legalized sports wagering in the US plus the most recent surge of acceptance at the polls.
Three new US states including Maryland, Louisiana, and South Dakota all approved ballot measures in early November to legalize sports betting. That brings the total to 25 states where fans can either currently wager on sports legally within the US or will be able to sometime in 2021.
There are no universal rules adopted for sports wagering as laws differ from state to state. Only a portion allow for proposition wagering involving NCAA college games and athletes. Also, policies differ between sportsbook operators with no current official guidelines or jurisdictions.
For example, BetMGM did not offer any specific individual proper proposition wagers for college football games this past weekend. According to the Associated Press, DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel do not offer any either by a standard policy. However, FanDuel did offer one player prop for last Thursday’s Colorado-Boise State football game. They were offering a bet on whether Colorado State quarterback Patrick O’Brien would throw for more than or fewer than 275.5 yards.
Another concern of the NCAA and policymakers are that proposition wagers on college athletes are more readily available on unlicensed offshore sites that are beyond the reach of US regulators.
Fear may be pushing them into the black market, where they are more difficult to monitor and where it may be more dangerous for the players involved. In theory, because you do not allow US sportsbooks books to offer action on a market does not mean another opportunity will exist.
While the individual approach makes it hard for the NCAA to manage, Stevenson-Starks does not see a national ruling coming anytime soon. She summarized her feelings in this statement:
[A federal law] would be the most desirable, I don’t think the momentum is there for that to be resurrected, but it is something that should be on the radar. The state-by-state approach is more difficult for an institution like the NCAA.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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