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Analysis: Future Of College Betting Clouded By Scandal

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 9 mins

Analysis: Future Of College Betting Clouded By Scandal

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Could we ever see a national ban on college betting, or states removing college football betting and college basketball betting from their catalogs?

Multiple investigations concerning betting and college athletics have shaken the legal gambling landscape this year, in addition to several NFL players being suspended. In one instance, those two storylines overlapped. 

All of this is quickly developing into a potential threat to the continued legalization of betting on college sports in the jurisdictions that currently allow it. Kentucky, and Maine are expected to launch betting before the end of this year. 

With North Carolina and Vermont aiming to begin taking bets in early 2024. The laws governing sports betting are governed at the state level, but there could be tipping point at the federal level if the current news trend continues, and educational institutions and elected officials demand it. 

But one major player in the gambling space believes any further limits on legal college betting could have the opposite effect. 

"Part of the reason the integrity of the game is far better monitored is due to regulating sports betting," said attorney and lobbyist Bill Pascrell. "The law legalizing it didn't create the problem. It helps avoid further problems and better policing. Nothing is ever perfect but regulation is important for integrity."

Pascrell is a partner in PPAG in New Jersey and is a trustee of the Entain Foundation. He believe those states coming online within the next 12 months "will intensify their efforts leading up to launch and make them more aware and sharp on focusing on integrity."

Betting Scandals Rock Alabama, Iowa, Iowa State

An investigation into gambling at Iowa and Iowa State has resulted in seven current or former athletes being charged records tampering. NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from betting on any NCAA-backed sport at any level. Gambling is also illegal in Iowa for those under 21 in Iowa, as is knowingly allow someone under 21 to bet. 

The athletes allegedly made their illicit bets using the mobile platforms from DraftKings and FanDuel. Multiple athletes are alleged to have used the names and information of family members in setting up their accounts. 

Investigations such as these, or when NFL players are deemed to have broken league rules when betting, are often triggered when third-party geofencing and investigative services notice certain betting patterns or banking transactions on betting apps

Current Broncos and former Iowa State Cyclone defensive tackle Eyioma Uwazurike has been suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games in 2022. An investigation by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation alleges he made 801 wagers totaling “over $21,361” via a FanDuel under his control. He allegedly wagered on both Iowa State and Broncos NFL games in which he played. 

Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers is another player facing tampering charges from Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s investigation. He allegedly placed 26 wagers on Iowa State sporting events, including a 2021 football game against Oklahoma State in which he was a backup QB but did not play. 

Iowa kicker Aaron Blom allegedly bet on several Iowa sports events, including the 2021 football game against Iowa State. In that case, Blom, who did not play in the game, backed the under on the 45-point total. Iowa would win the game 27-17, for a total of 44 points.

Alabama's baseball coach Brad Bohannon was fired on May 4 after an investigation found the coach was on the phone with a someone in Ohio who was placing large wagers on Alabama to lose its game to LSU, set to be played at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. 

Alabama’s No. 1 pitcher Luke Holman was subsequently scratched as the starting pitcher that day and LSU beat Alabama 8-7. Regulators in both Ohio and Indiana, using geofencing and money-tracing technology, tracked large and suspicious bets to the same person who was speaking to Bohannon.

Where Can You Legally Bet On College Sports?

Currently 37 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting, Of those 38 jurisdictions, 34 are active. Kentucky and Maine expect to launch in 2023. North Carolina and Vermont plan to begin taking wagers in January of 2024.

Here is a list of where sports betting has been legalized and whether or not you can bet on college sports in each jurisdiction. 

State College Games College Props Restrictions
ConnecticutNoNoFutures Only
IllinoisYesNoRetail Only
LouisianaYesYesVaries By Parish
Maine*YesYesNo State Schools
MassachusettsYesNoState: Tourney Only
MississippiYesYesIn Person Only
MontanaYesYes In Person Only
NebraskaYesYes No State Schools
Nevada YesYesNone
New HampshireNoNo-
New JerseyYesNoNo State Schools
New MexicoYesYesNo State Schools
New YorkYesNoNo State Schools
North Carolina*YesYesNone
Rhode IslandNoNoNone
South DakotaNoNo-
VermontYesYes State: Tourney Only
West VirginiaYesYesNone
WashingtonYesYesNo State Schools
(* - Betting Legal But Yet To Launch)

Collegiate sports have been a grey area in the regulated betting space since PASPA was overturned in 2018. Pascrell helped to lead the fight in court to fight the case in New Jersey.

That state, which legalized betting before the Supreme Court decision that allowed the practice to commence nationwide, does not allow betting on college and university teams based in the Garden State. New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Washington D.C. followed suit. 

Connecticut is home to the NCAA men’s champion UConn Huskies. Only futures bets on in-state college teams are allowed. The Huskies were +2000 before the 2023 NCAA Tournament before winning it all as No. 4 seed. The Huskies are currently slotted at +1800 to repeat as national champs in 2024 at BetMGM. 

"The only way to impact black and grey markets, integrity and responsible gambling is regulation. Regulation helps in a significant way to creating a better more safe and consumer protection oriented environment. Legalization is critical to protecting the consumers," Pascrell said. 

Legal College Betting Blurs The Line For Athletes 

Analysis: Future Of College Betting Clouded By Scandal 1

The history of college betting and college betting impropriety is long and deep.

For athletes, the line quickly becomes blurred in terms of what is and isn’t allowed. Some rationalize their decision to bet given the overwhelming presence of ads for regulated books, and the fact that their friends are doing the same thing.

As long as collegiate betting is allowed, the NCAA remains in a bind. The NCAA's complete prohibition of betting on any sports it regulates among athletes, coaches, administrators, employees, was untenable in terms of the punishment. In May, the NCAA modified the punishment that once mandated a "permanent loss of collegiate eligibility in all sports." 

Now, depending on the amount of money wagered, athletes face penalties starting with mandated "sports wagering education." 

U.S. Integrity president Matthew Holt said his organization will speak to all the schools in the SEC and Big 12 this year. He believes the modified NCAA rules are fair and reasonable, especially for those athletes simply making small wagers on games with which they are not involved. 

"If someone is betting $20 on Monday Night Football, they're not impacting the game. You're not supposed to bet. You're breaking the rules. But the punishment is not as devastating as it once was."

His message to the athletes is simple: "Don't bet using regulated accounts. You will get caught." 

Holt stresses the distinction between some of the current violations in the news, where athletes are making bets they aren't allowed to make, and the major point-shaving and game-fixing scandals of the past. 

Point-shaving and game-fixing scandals have rocked college sports as far back as 1950. The so-called “CCNY Scandal” 70+ years ago involved seven different teams and 33 players. It led to the NCAA’s gambling enforcement division. 

The point-shaving that took place at Boston College in 1978-79 formed a real-life storyline in the movie “Goodfellas.” 

DraftKings Director of Race and Sports Betting Johnny Avello found himself swept up in the Arizona State 1994 point-shaving scandal when he ran the sportsbook at the Wynn in Las Vegas. Avello spent three days talking to FBI agents after it was learned several of the regular patrons at his book were among those placing bets on the games whose outcomes were impacted. 

Legal sports betting and the technology that propels it have become, to some, too tempting a tool to ignore. Whereas betting among athletes among athletes was once conducted in the shadows, it is now as common and easy as posting on Instagram. 

"Current technology continues to provide useful advance monitoring for illegal and integrity deprived activities.  It is an ongoing process that gets better and better every day. Big data is key to developing a more nibble and effective integrity monitoring process," Pascrell said.

About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.