College sports betting should be banned

Pittsburgh athletic director Heather Lyke argued in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday that gambling on college sports should be prohibited.

Lyke testified as part of a hearing titled “Protecting the Integrity of College Athletics.” The hearing was scheduled as college athletic administrators are pushing for federal legislation to govern rules allowing players to make money off their name, image and likeness.

Lyke argued in her prepared testimony that legal gambling on college sports “will have a corrosive and detrimental impact on student-athletes and the general student body alike. Gambling creates pressures and temptations that should not exist.”

Since a federal law banning sports wagering across the country was repealed in 2018 and left for states to legalize sports betting, betting on sports is legal in 18 states. Multiple states have rules against betting on schools located in them and Lyke cited those restrictions as a reason why gambling on college sports should be outlawed everywhere.

“Ironically, the case for prohibiting gambling on intercollegiate athletics on a national basis is made by the very states that have authorized it. Many states that have permitted sports wagering have recognized the dangers of wagering on intercollegiate sports and prohibited wagering on teams in their home state or on competitions that take place in their home state. For example, New York allows sports wagering on college sports generally, but prohibits wagering on New York college sports teams or on any collegiate sports taking place in the state of New York. Somewhat similarly, Illinois allows wagering on college sports generally, but does not allow wagering on a ‘minor league sports event’ or any game involving ‘an Illinois collegiate team.’ New York may not take a bet on a Syracuse game or a college tournament at Madison Square Garden, but it will allow bets on Pitt vs. Clemson. While these states seek to protect their own students and universities, they are more than willing to allow the corrosive effects of gambling to impact the rest of the country. Of course, their neighboring states are doing the same to them.

I know I speak for all athletic directors when I say that we strive to foster academically, athletically and personally life-changing opportunities for our student-athletes and enable student-athletes to excel after their collegiate careers. While sports wagering might create revenue opportunities for states, it will ultimately undermine the integrity of intercollegiate sports and the academic, personal and social experiences of students and student-athletes at our institutions.”

Lyke also mentioned in her letter that the ACC as a whole opposes gambling on college sports.

Heather Lyke became Pitt’s AD in 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

March Madness’ popularity tied to betting

While Lyke notes the irony in legal gambling restrictions making the case for why gambling on college sports should be illegal, there’s also irony in a college athletics stance against gambling because of the popularity of March Madness.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is one of the biggest sporting events of the year because it’s incredibly easy to gamble on. The single-elimination tournament makes it easy for casual and non-fans to fill out a bracket and win money.

If gambling on college sports was outlawed, March Madness pools would still exist. So would betting on other games. Lyke noted in her testimony that “with the proliferation of online betting, placing wagers on any game at any time is as simple as the click of a button. One does not have to walk into the sportsbook of a casino to bet on their favorite college team, they just have to enter a credit card and place the bet online.”

Online betting would still happen in a United States where betting on college sports was prohibited. Bettors could simply go to offshore sites or find other avenues to place their bets in lieu of a legal sportsbook in their state.

That’s a big reason why it seems highly unlikely that any pending federal legislation regarding college sports would include betting regulation. With state laws allowing players to take endorsement money set to go into effect soon, the NCAA wants to have something official sooner rather than later so it doesn’t have to deal with myriad state laws next school year.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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