Off the heels of the NCAA rescinding its ban of betting states hosting high-stakes college championship events, the association’s next steps are finding ways to adapt to the sports betting world.
The NCAA’s primary focus, outside of the gambling aspect, is the mental health and well-being of student athletes when it comes to sports betting. That topic was discussed during a panel, “The Changing Landscape of Sports Wagering and the Impact on the NCAA Landscape” at the International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking hosted by UNLV at Caesars Palace last week.
“We’re trying to learn,” said John Parsons, director of the NCAA’s Sports Science Institute. “There’s a lot to learn.”
The 85-minute panel discussion was predicated around the student-athlete’s role on sports betting; not necessarily how sports betting will widely impact college athletics going forward.
According to a study done by the NCAA in November 2017 titled, “Trends in NCAA Student-Athlete Gambling Behaviors and Attitudes,” 55 percent of male student athletes admitted to gambling in some sort of capacity in 2016, a drop of 11 percent from 2008. The study showed 24.3 percent of men wagered on sports, followed by games of personal skill (23.3 percent) and playing cards for money (22.9 percent).
“There are probably, at any given moment, a handful of campuses that have proactively developed educational materials that reflect their own stances and their own thoughts on how best to educate [athletes on sports betting],” Parsons said.
While mentioned briefly, the impact of the NCAA rescinding its ban on sports betting cities hosting potential championship events was not a primary talking point. The association overturned the ban on May 3.
Las Vegas is already the home base for three conference tournaments in college basketball — the Mountain West, Pac-12 and Western Athletic Conference — but there were no thoughts of giving Las Vegas an opportunity to host NCAA Tournament games.
That won’t be happening for a while, though. Preliminary sites for the NCAA Tournament are already predetermined up until 2022, and the Final Four is set until 2026.
Unlike in years past, Las Vegas will have the venues to host such prominent college games and that is the difference for future considerations. T-Mobile Arena already plays host to the Pac-12 tournament. A College Football Playoff National Championship, when Las Vegas Stadium is completed in time for the Oakland Raiders’ move next year, could be in the cards, as well.
The 2023 national championship will be held in the new Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers stadium in Inglewood, Calif. There is no committed site for the national championship beyond Houston in 2024.
Even college baseball could have NCAA regionals at the newly constructed Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin. There are options that weren’t present before.
“I think that there’s definitely some interest from some of our member institutions on trying to get some of the championships in Nevada,” said Naima Stevenson-Starks, the NCAA’s vice president of hearing operations. “We have conferences who are already here, so the policy that would have precluded us from coming to Nevada is no longer in play.”
Stevenson-Starks added the possibility of adding policies for venues with in-game wagering to protect the integrity of championship-level games. She said that an area that doesn’t get talked about much is player and family safety regarding betting.
“Think about being in a venue where you could have sports wagering in the venue you’re at,” she said. “When you watch televised events, sometimes they’ll show the player’s family in the stands. Imagine somebody missing a free throw, and somebody going in and making a large wager. Is there an implication for that family’s safety? This is something we haven’t engaged on all that much, but these are the types of questions we’ll have to think through.”
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