NCAA’s Response to Legal Gambling: Rule Changes and Support for Federal Regulation

In response to the May 14, 2018 Supreme Court ruling which opened the door for states to legalize sports gambling, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) released a statement outlining its reaction to the decision. The statement is headlined with support for federal regulation of the sports gambling industry as a “necessary safeguard to the integrity of college sports.” In addition, the NCAA Board of Governors has temporarily suspended its rule prohibiting championship events from being held in states that offer legal sports betting in an effort to “ensure championship location continuity.”

Pointing to the necessity of federal regulation, NCAA President Mark Emmert said,

 “Our highest priorities in any conversation about sports wagering are maintaining the integrity of competition and student-athlete well-being… Sports wagering can adversely impact student-athletes and undermine the games they play. We are committed to ensuring that laws and regulations promote a safe and fair environment for the nearly half a million students who play college athletics. While we recognize the critical role of state governments, strong federal standards are necessary to safeguard the integrity of college sports and the athletes who play these games at all levels.”

Previously, NCAA championship events were prohibited from being held in states offering legal wagering on the contests. However, following New Jersey’s lead, many states have prepared to pass legislation legalizing sports gambling. In the event that many states adopt some form of legal betting, lifting the prohibition on hosting events in such states is a logical response from the NCAA.

NCAA basketball Final Four sites have already been determined through the 2022 season. According to CBS, the bidding cycle for Final Fours through the 2023-26 seasons will be decided upon and made public by July 2018. The Board may consider permanent revisions of the championship host policy regarding sports gambling, so it remains unclear whether states permitting wagering will be eligible through the next bidding cycle.

For now, these actions will not affect current rules prohibiting wagering by student-athletes, coaches, or employees of NCAA member schools. However, the rules and consequences may be reconsidered once the landscape of legal sports betting becomes clearer.


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