The gambling business is pouring millions into flashy fun-and-fortune advertising and university leaders are shocked, shocked I tell you, that more and more students are suddenly participating.
Researchers estimate that 75 per cent of college students gambled on something during the past year. Lotteries, March Madness and football games were the big attractions.
Nearly 30 per cent of male athletes supposedly bet on sports. Athletes are susceptible to the bait. They are traditionally competitive people, always hungry for excitement, confident that they know it all and can beat the system.
Surprise, surprise, as Gomer used to say, SEC football coaches are catching up with modern society. They have discovered that gambling is now legal in 38 states. They see hazards ahead for their guys. The coaches seem worried or at least concerned that some might get involved.
No question there is risk.
The flashing red light came on at Alabama this spring. The school fired baseball coach Brad Bohannon for his alleged involvement with an acquaintance placing “a suspicious bet” on LSU to defeat the Crimson Tide in a game.
An immediate inspection found no evidence that any athletes were involved but they weren’t far from the fire.
Iowa is now being investigated.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on sports gambling, making it easier to bet than finding your friendly, neighborhood bookie. Enticing ads are relatively new.
How strange that some colleges, always looking for new money, rushed to sign sponsorship deals with the industry. PointsBet and University of Colorado-Boulder had a $1.625 million contract involving advertising at the football stadium and sponsorship messages on school radio.
Colorado was actually paid for bets made using a university promo code, until that became public. PointsBet caught the heat and amended that deal. Just guessing that the company will find a way to void the entire friendship with the Buffaloes. Prime doesn’t want any more negative publicity.
Caesars has or had marketing sponsorships with LSU and Michigan State. LSU made news with an apology after sending what it called accidental promotional emails to underage students.
Maryland and University of Denver supposedly grabbed their fair share of gambling money.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D, Conn.) sent letters to 66 universities demanding details of any contracts with a sports betting company. The senator, concerned with underage students receiving gambling solicitations, sent letters to executives at PointsBet, Caesars and the American Gaming Association calling for the end of such partnerships.
Former Representative Tom McMillen, (D, Md.), former basketball star and Rhodes Scholar, thinks there is no way around betting on events on campuses.
“There are risks to higher education with that, but it is almost inevitable. You have this huge sports enterprise across the country. And universities are adopting it, much like they adopted beer drinking and liquor at football games.”
Key word is money.
NCAA rules prohibit athletes, coaches and staff from betting on amateur, collegiate and professional sports that the NCAA offers a championship in. The NCAA prohibits NIL collectives from going near gambling businesses. We don’t know for sure that the NCAA has authority over collectives.
SEC coaches were treated to a two-hour presentation on gambling risks at their spring meeting. Josh Heupel shared his thoughts.
“Everyone in college sports, college football, has to continue to find a way to put their arms around the situation and make sure we try to navigate it in a really, really good way.”
I don’t know what that says.
I do know gambling is big in Tennessee. The state Sports Wagering Advisory Council reported a record $405.3 million handle last October.
Heupel does have a plan.
“We constantly educate the players. It’s part of our team rules. You try to bring that up every week when we’re in team meetings. Understand that the people you come into contact with might be trying to draw information from you.”
The coach says gambling has spread in a completely different way from other risks.
“You’re able to do it on your phones. At the end of the day, you try and find a way to protect the players.”
Want to bet on whether FanDuel or DraftKings or BetMGM will dare purchase naming rights to a football stadium?
Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail. com