NCAA To Lobby States For Sports-Betting Reforms

October 5, 2023
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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) plans to lobby for reforms to sports-betting legislation in various states across the U.S.
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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) plans to lobby for reforms to sports-betting legislation in various states across the U.S.

The governing body for collegiate sports in the U.S. has been relatively quiet on the state lobbying front since the overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, with individual colleges and universities, or coalitions of schools, instead lobbying in their home states.

Those lobbying efforts were also somewhat scattershot, with some schools asking for modest protections, such as prohibitions on individual proposition wagers on college athletes, while others pushed for more drastic measures like prohibiting sportsbooks from accepting any wagers on college sports.

On Wednesday (October 4), the NCAA announced it will begin to advocate around a set of principles centered on protecting players and officials from harassment and coercion, as well as protecting competition integrity.

“In the past five years, 38 states have passed 38 different laws legalizing sports betting, and while some contain robust protection and integrity provisions, many do not,” the NCAA said in a statement.

The NCAA’s legislative requests will include mandatory harassment reporting and penalties for harassment, including giving gaming regulators the ability to involuntarily exclude those suspected of either harassment, coercion, or integrity concerns temporarily pending an investigation.

In addition, the NCAA wants states to compile a list of “categories of individuals and entities” who are prohibited from placing bets on college athletics.

The NCAA also calls for a universal minimum age of 21 for wagering on sports. Most states already apply such an age limit, with a handful of exceptions including Kentucky, New Hampshire and Oregon.

"The NCAA is making changes to help student-athletes make smart choices when it comes to sports betting, but given the explosive growth of this new industry, we are eager to partner with lawmakers, regulators and industry leaders to protect student-athletes from harassment and threats," NCAA president Charlie Baker said. 

"Some states have great policies on the books to protect student-athletes from harassment and coercion and to protect the integrity of the games, but as more states pass or amend laws, more needs to be done."

The additional presence of the NCAA could add a new wrinkle to any sports-betting conversations in state capitols in 2024, with several states adopting significant amendments to their existing sports-betting structures this past year, including Tennessee, Ohio and North Carolina.

In a separate move, the NCAA also said it will revisit its own sports wagering guidelines for players, amid some criticism from players and coaches that the existing rules are too strong for players found to gamble legally on teams that are not their own.

The NCAA’s Division 1 Council directed several committees to review penalties for those players. Under current rules, players can be suspended for up to half a season for wagering on their own sport being played at another school and a full season for betting on other sports at their own schools.

The NCAA said a draft concept under consideration includes removing suspensions on a first offense for players who participate in sports wagering but do not bet on their own teams, but require education, and potentially include suspensions for a second and third offense.

"We continue to put student-athlete well-being front and center in the association's efforts around sports wagering, including this week's action related to reconsideration of penalties that members believe have been overly punitive to student-athletes," Baker said. 

"This is an important step toward modernizing the NCAA's approach to sports wagering," he added. 

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