We are currently living in a time where more than half of the population in the United States lives in a state that has already legalized sports betting. That in spite of the fact that only 15 states have passed laws on the books.
At the same time, one thing that seems to be standard among most of the laws being passed is that in-state betting on amateur sports remains illegal. That is happening under the guise of protecting the integrity of college sports as well as the student athletes who play them.
The question is, how true is that point, or is it more of a question of politics getting in the way of good policy?
As it stands, legal bets on amateur sports is now legal in just three states, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Mississippi.
In allowing for bets on Mississippi college teams, the executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, Allen Godfrey explained it by saying, “tell me that people are not already betting on these games all over the place anyway.”
He’s got a point, but he’s not an impartial party either in a state with no professional teams. If people are going to bet big in Mississippi chances are that would only happen if they can bet on their beloved SEC teams which rule the local landscape.
The politics getting in the way of college betting comes directly from the colleges at major school in the states that are legalizing gambling. For example, Penn State’s President Eric J. Barron explained his school’s position stating, “We are concerned that implementation is likely to have a negative effect on the integrity of college athletics and on the health, safety and welfare of Pitt’s students. Students may be more inclined to participate in gambling activities, possibly to their detriment.”
What he is likely getting at is a fear that student athletes can be approached by other students and members of the community with bribes to possibly impact games.
But what he doesn’t acknowledge is that as long as sports betting on those teams remains illegal in the states in question, whatever betting does take place on those teams is happening on the black market. As such it is that much harder to monitor and fix the issue since it is beyond the control of the gaming commissions in the respective states.
And make no mistake about it, as Godfrey explained earlier there are already tons of illegal bets being made on college sports. Everyone knows it’s a huge driver in the incredible popularity of college football and basketball and the end of year tournaments.
Keeping it underground seems like a missed opportunity for greater oversight. And something that is likely going to be needed as long as college athletes continue not getting paid for their work beyond the scholarships they receive while the coaches and administrators make millions off the backs of their labor. If anything, with the legalizing of betting and greater acceptance of gambling across the country happening more and more every day, the urgency only seems to be getting greater everyday.