So Much For The NCAA’s Hard Line Against Sports Betting

Written By Jessica Welman on May 17, 2018
NCAA office sign

For years, colleges could not hold championship sporting events in Nevada. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) would not allow it.


Because of sports betting. In fact, the era where pro sports would not even go near Las Vegas is not that long ago. Perhaps because the NCAA saw how pro sports were thriving or because of the recent reversal of the federal ban on sports betting by the Supreme Court (we’re betting on the latter), suddenly the organization is changing its tune.

That is right. After decades of ardently opposing sports betting and fighting to keep even daily fantasy sports out of college athletics, the NCAA is now in favor of sports betting. Of course, the NCAA supports a very specific type of sports betting, just like its pro counterparts.

Las Vegas now open to the NCAA

Following the lead of the leagues, the NCAA announced on Thursday that it now supports a federal sports betting framework. Additionally, it has dropped its ban on championships in Las Vegas.

In the announcement, the NCAA said the following regarding other elements of its new sport s betting stance:

The Board of Governors’ action does not impact NCAA rules that already prohibit sports wagering by student-athletes or member schools’ athletics employees, including coaches. Violations of any sports wagering rules remain subject to NCAA penalties; however, the NCAA membership may reconsider appropriate consequences for those who legally bet on sports.

NCAA policy restricting sports gambling sponsorships and advertising will remain in place for NCAA championships and Football Bowl Subdivision postseason bowls.

The NCAA has allowed certain sporting events to take place in Las Vegas prior to this. UNLV athletics are an obvious example, but Sin City has also hosted the PAC-12 and Mountain West basketball tournaments, the annual Las Vegas Bowl, and several high profile NCAA basketball games at T-Mobile Arena, to name a few.

The NCAA did emphasize the lift on the Nevada ban is temporary. With sites for the basketball and football championship determined years in advance, the earliest Vegas could host a marquee national championship event would be 2023.

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NCAA, like the pros, want a federal framework

It fell to NCAA President Mark Emmert to justify the rationale of the change:

“Our highest priorities in any conversation about sports wagering are maintaining the integrity of competition and student-athlete well-being. Sports wagering can adversely impact student-athletes and undermine the games they play. We are committed to ensuring that laws and regulations promote a safe and fair environment for the nearly half a million students who play college athletics.”

“While we recognize the critical role of state governments, strong federal standards are necessary to safeguard the integrity of college sports and the athletes who play these games at all levels.”

What Emmert did not discuss was a potential carveout for college sports. This solution is something that has come up as an option in the past.

Instead, it certainly seems like the NCAA could be angling for a cut of the action. Any time a sports organization uses the words “safeguard the integrity”, it stands to reason the word “fee” is about to come up as well.

Given how many state frameworks have foregone the controversial “integrity fee“, the professional leagues and the NCAA now seem to be appealing to Congress to intervene. Sen. Orrin Hatch already announced plans to introduce a federal sports betting bill regulating the activity. It is worth noting Hatch is also one of the lawmakers who authored the 1992 ban on wagering.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for A graduate of Indiana University and USC, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

View all posts by Jessica Welman