There is a lot more to sports in the 21st century than simply watching it for the pure enjoyment. Just watching the game or learning about the players involved will never be enough for a lot of fans – they want to watch and have some personal interest in a game they wouldn’t otherwise care about. To be fair, most entertainment these days is built on a certain level of interactivity and sports is no different. Having a wager on a pro game is almost a rite of passage for sports fans everywhere. However, when it comes to placing a wager on a college football or basketball match, a whole can of ethical worms is opened up that simply doesn’t apply to wagering on professional sports.
Sports bettors in Pennsylvania have it good when it comes to betting on college sports. Unlike neighboring New Jersey (where sports bettors cannot place wagers on college games either taking place in the state or involving teams in the state), there is no such stipulation in the Keystone State. However, if a recent push for a ban on college sports wagering from University of Pittsburgh athletic director Heather Lyke and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham comes to pass, it all could be a thing of the past.
Both parties are arguing that the integrity of college sports betting and the negative effects it can may potentially have on both students and student-athletes. The issue has become topical yet again at a recent U.S. Senate Hearing where the call for a federal ban to be implemented on college sports wagering was discussed.
Why college sports are different
Betting on collegiate sports like college basketball and college football are major drawcards for sports bettors and online sportsbooks take in a huge percentage of their annual betting handles for events like March Madness each year. The trouble comes that college athletes are not professional and potentially exposed to accepting bribes for match-fixing or points shaving.
Senator Graham has argued on numerous occasions on the effects that prop bets could possibly have on college games with players potentially being bribed to point shave to meet betting margins. He reiterated the point again at the recent U.S. Senate Hearing on the college sports wagering;
“I’m just saying that, I don’t know, that seems to be almost uncontrollable, and that I think is going to ruin the game. You got a bunch of people who are amateur athletes. Even with name and likeness, most of them are not going to make a bunch of money. Just how much money could you make if you’re a trainer on the team and you tell somebody, ‘First play’s going to be a pass.’ We need to do something about it.” Graham said predictably.
However, the surprise came from someone inside the collegiate sports industry backing Graham up.
University of Pittsburgh’s athletic director, Heather Lyke backs up Graham
Whilst speaking for herself, Heather Lyke, the Athletic Director from the University of Pittsburgh claimed her anti-college sports betting view was a wide held one among her colleagues;
“Gambling creates pressures and temptations that should not exist. While sports wagering might create revenue opportunities for states, it will ultimately undermine the integrity of intercollegiate sports and the academic, personal, and social experiences of students and student-athletes at our institutions”
It’s pertinent to note that the U.S. Senate Hearing was not held as a part of any determination on newly laws, but was however, just a warning shot over the bow on the industry should any points shaving or other match fixing come to light.
For the time being, Pennsylvanian sports betting fans can look forward to the beginning of the College Football season scheduled for one week earlier than the traditional Labor Day weekend start date (*subject to final NCAA approval).