College Football Season Set To Open Amid Iowa Sports-Betting Probe

August 24, 2023
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Amid a high-profile investigation in Iowa, it is almost as if college football is hoping against hope there will not be another explosive sports-betting scandal as a new season opens on August 26.

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Amid a high-profile investigation in Iowa, it is almost as if college football is hoping against hope there will not be another explosive sports-betting scandal as a new season opens on August 26.

Following a series of recent integrity incidents, college athletics officials appear to be on higher alert than ever five years after the U.S. Supreme Court enabled legal sports wagering to spread beyond Nevada.

“The regulated sports-betting market has a gambling problem that negatively impacts the NCAA higher education institutions more broadly,” Saquandra Heath, a spokeswoman for the National Collegiate Athletics Administration (NCAA), told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

Heath said the NCAA “continues to work with industry leaders, mental health experts, law enforcement and regulators, actively monitoring, researching and analyzing this landscape to devise effective ways to protect student-athlete well-being and minimize gambling harm.”

NCAA president Charlie Baker is prioritizing the prevention of sports-betting harm to college athletes and the staff at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis “continues to explore additional opportunities to address the issue,” Heath said.

On the other hand, former Massachusetts Governor Baker has also recently said that college sports has a “majority opportunity to get into the sports-betting space.”

The NCAA also continues to allow member schools and conferences to provide data to sports-wagering companies if the data is also publicly available.

Recent publicity about sports-betting violations has attracted negative media headlines nationwide.

Meanwhile, pushback against a limited series of marketing alliances between sportsbook operators and college athletics departments has led at least four states, including Connecticut, Louisiana and Maryland, to restrict sports-betting partnerships involving college sports.

“Schools should think twice about entering into partnerships with gambling operators, and really understand what message are we sending to young people when it comes to gambling — no hypocrisy and more transparency about why and how gambling will improve your quality of life,” said Timothy Fong, co-director of the Gambling Studies Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Looming over the pageantry of a new college football season is an ongoing probe by the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation (IDCI) into allegations that four football players at Iowa State University and three more at the University of Iowa used cell phones to place prohibited bets with major operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel.

Brian Ohorilko, administrator for the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission, said he could not comment on the allegations because of the ongoing probe by the ICDI.

In an August 3 statement, the Iowa gaming regulator said it “does not have any information that would call into question the integrity of any sports wagering contest or event involving the University of Iowa or Iowa State University.”

Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association, said he does not think the IDCI’s probe will have a significant impact on sports betting in his state.

“I would envision the handle will be as robust as the 2022 season and perhaps continue to grow nominally,” Ehrecke said.

But Ehrecke acknowledged the opening of retail sportsbooks in June in Nebraska, which borders Iowa to the west, could reduce the Hawkeye State’s sports-betting handle.

Although recent sports-betting violations in the National Football League, which opens its 2023 season on September 7, have grabbed more of the headlines, this has not been an easy year for college sports either.

The University of Alabama on May 4 fired baseball coach Brad Bohannon after reports of suspicious betting on his team’s games using inside information.

“Gambling has always been part of college athletics, but there has never been a time when it is this pervasive, expected and allowed,” said Fong, the UCLA professor.

“And with digital tech, it’s never been faster and easier. Only time will tell if we do enough to stave off a gambling crisis in ten years, much like the opioid crisis.”

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