Sports Gambling is Here and People are Paying Attention


2 cell phones being held in anticipation in front of a tv screen showing a soccer game.

On January 1, 2023, sports betting became legal in the state of Ohio and we shared what this means for your institution now that this is the reality. Ohio is just one of 33 states (and the District of Columbia) where brick-and-mortar and online/mobile sportsbooks are legal and operational.1 That number is only going to climb considering four more states (Maine, Nebraska, Florida, and Kentucky) have legalized sports betting, but it is not yet operational in these states.2 More telling is the fact that only a dozen states have not legalized sports betting.

While sports betting may be legal in your state, it is important to remember that sports betting still violates NCAA Bylaw 10.02.1, which prohibits student-athletes, coaches, athletic department staff, and non-athletic department staff with oversight duties from placing, accepting, or soliciting wagers on any NCAA sport at any level—including professional.3 Such individuals are permitted to bet, depending on state law, on sports not played at the NCAA level (like the F1 or NASCAR). This means a coach cannot place a wager on the NBA Finals and a student-athlete cannot bet on the outcome of the World Series, but they could both place a bet on the outcome of the Kentucky Derby.

Penalties relating to violations of Bylaw 10.02.1 are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but often directly impact eligibility in cases involving student-athletes. Note that this is only the NCAA’s punishment. If the student-athlete is under the age limit as permitted by the state (21 years old in Ohio), the student-athlete could be facing criminal penalties including felony charges.4 Additionally, staff and coaches may face adverse employment actions, depending on the terms of their employment contracts. In Ohio, coaches and staff members could also face felony charges if they place a bet with knowledge not available to the general public.5   

A 2017 NCAA executive summary stated that 55% of male student-athletes gambled for money in 2016 and 24% indicated they had violated NCAA bylaws by gambling (for money) on sports.6 Despite this, many student-athletes and coaches operate under the assumption that they won’t get caught. But what they don’t know is that there are persons and organizations actively monitoring the sports betting market.

So, who is actually monitoring this? To put it simply, a lot of different organizations are paying close attention to the betting markets—not just the NCAA. One organization, U.S. Integrity, works with gaming control boards, professional sports organizations, collegiate athletic conferences, individual schools, and licensed betting operators to monitor sports betting and report suspicious activity to those interested parties. Recently, several organizations have launched investigations into suspicious betting activity connected with collegiate athletics. While these are just investigations at this point, it serves as a reminder to make sure your athletic departments are adequately educated on the NCAA Bylaw and the status of your state’s sports betting legislation. In addition, your institution may consider sending educational reminders ahead of major sports competitions (NBA and NHL playoffs, NCAA Baseball Tournament).
3 The NAIA and NJCAA does not have specific rules or consequences regarding sports gambling, but some of those member institutions do prohibit sports wagering at their institutions. 
4 Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 3775.99.
6 According to the same 2017 executive summary, the most popular sports gambled on by student athletes included the NFL, NBA, college football and college basketball.

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