KY Universities Not Adding Protection For Athletes From Angry Sports Bettors

Kentuckians will be allowed to bet on sports later this year. Kentucky’s athletic fandom is centered around college athletics since the state isn’t home to a single professional sports franchise.

As a result, industry experts believe college sports could be a larger piece of the overall handle than in other states.

Thus, the Kentucky sports betting launch poses new risks to the state’s student-athletes. However, the state’s several Division I athletic programs are not planning on implementing new rules to protect them.

Increased Scrutiny of Performance May Lead To Increased Harassment

With college athletics being a focal point of the industry, it makes student-athletes a potential harassment target from angry sports bettors.

For example, Benjamin Patz, a 24-year-old sports bettor from California known as Parlay Patz, was sentenced to 36 months of probation after being accused of threatening both professional and collegiate athletes on Twitter.

Given Kentucky’s fandom and sports betting conditions, the Parlay Patz story should make Kentucky universities concerned. If playing college sports in Kentucky comes with increased harassment, the state’s seven Division I athletic programs could run into legal issues they won’t want to deal with.

But none of those programs appear to be implementing new rules to prevent that from happening.

University of Kentucky and Louisville Trust Regulators to Protect Student-Athletes

In a joint statement, the two largest athletic programs in the state said they would be “proactive” in the issue. However, the University of Kentucky and Louisville failed to elaborate on what that meant.

“While the universities will remain neutral on this legislation, our priority is to protect the best interests of our student-athletes,” the joint statement reads. “Even as we know that state and federal officials will be charged with enforcement of these issues rather than our respective compliance offices, we will continue to be proactive in educating our student-athletes about the issues surrounding sports wagering in order to protect their welfare and the integrity of competition.”

Gaming Today reached out to the athletic departments of all seven Division I athletic departments in the state.

Six of them did not respond to questions regarding player safety.

Bellarmine University, a private university in Louisville and ASUN Conference member, told Gaming Today it will handle any problems as they arise.

“We don’t plan to implement any new policies,” Bellarmine assistant athletic director for communication John Spugnardi told Gaming Today. “The NCAA has been very clear for a long time about student-athletes, coaches and staff wagering on sports. In terms of ‘protecting’ student-athletes, there are no specific policies regarding that. We’ll handle any issues on a case-by-case basis.”

Most of NCAA’s Involvement Involves Wagering, Not Protection

Spugnardi was right about the NCAA’s clarity. It clearly states that student-athletes are not allowed to wager on sports.

Consequently, the NCAA announced a partnership with EPIC Risk Management at the start of 2022. The company holds in-person programs to help prevent student-athletes from developing gambling addictions.

Additionally, EPIC’s sessions focus on sports betting awareness and protecting the integrity of competitions.

However, while this partnership is a net benefit for student-athletes, it won’t curb any harassment that comes their way.

Ohio’s Regulatory Changes Take Aim at the Problem

It might be unfair to ask the universities or NCAA what they are doing to stop this problem. They lack the authority to punish anyone who targets student-athletes over results.

Kentucky’s neighbor to the north, Ohio, is changing its sports betting structure in its new fiscal year. If the new budget is passed, Ohio sports bettors who threaten an athlete because of a losing bet will be placed on the self-exclusion list.

Ohio is making a statement. Harass athletes, and you’ll lose the privilege to wager on sports. Kentucky should do the same.

About the Author
Steve Schult

Steve Schult

Sports Betting Writer
Steve Schult is a veteran of the gambling industry with more than a decade of experience covering the space. After earning his journalism degree from Marist College, the New York native began covering high-stakes poker tournaments and the U.S. gambling industry for various outlets. Following stints as a writer for Card Player Media, Bluff Magazine, and the World Series of Poker, Schult joined Catena Media and has managed coverage for a handful of states.

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