Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers released a statement Tuesday night in which he denied breaking the law. Dekkers, ranked by the College Football Network as the 42nd best college QB in the nation, wants you to believe it’s OK for college athletes to bet on sports, bet on their own team, bet when underage, and bet if there parents help them do it.
But it seems like Dekkers is forgetting something: He’s a Division I college athlete on a scholarship. Because of that, he and every other scholarship athlete are beholden to all the rules and regulations that go along with that — and, of course, the law.
Dekkers is one of seven current or former Iowa and Iowa State athletes who on Wednesday were charged with one count of tampering with records related to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s sports betting investigation. According to the criminal complaint filed by the Story County Attorney’s Office, Dekker is accused of betting while underage, betting on his own football team, betting for others or letting others use his account to bet, concealing his identity in order to bet, and a variety of other charges.
Most of the accusations are unlikely to result in criminal charges, but the one charge filed is a misdemeanor that comes with a maximum sentence of up to a year in county jail or two years in prison, according to the Des Moines Register.
Dekker is currently not participating in preseason practices with his Iowa State teammates.
Is that really a defense?
In defending himself, Dekkers released a statement through the Des Moines-based Weinhardt Law Firm that read, in part:
“This charge attempts to criminalize a daily fact of American life. Millions of people share online accounts of all kinds every day. This prosecution interferes with and politicizes what is the business of Iowa State University and the NCAA. The investigation at the Iowa universities is the tip of an iceberg. Thousands and thousands of college athletes place bets — usually very small ones — with shared accounts. That is for the schools and the NCAA to police.”
Statement on behalf of Hunter Dekkers from The Weinhardt Law Firm, Des Moines:
"Hunter Dekkers denies the criminal charge brought against him. He will plead not guilty to that charge because he is in fact not guilty of that
"This charge attempts to criminalize a daily… pic.twitter.com/8M3Y8SP6Su
— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) August 2, 2023
In essence, Dekkers is trying to equate something like ordering coffee through a friend’s Starbucks account to placing a sports wager. There is no legal minimum age to drink coffee, nor is there is a state law prohibiting proxy ordering of said coffee drinks. But there are laws, policies, and regulations that prohibit underage betting or proxy betting. There are also plenty of laws, policies, and regulations that say that college and professional athletes cannot bet on their own teams, their own sport, or in the case of college sports, their own school.
In fact, in order to create a digital sports betting account, customers must acknowledge that they understand that if they are a coach, trainer, player, official, or “any other individual participating in an authorized sports where wagering is accepted,” they will be restricted in terms of what they can bet on.
You must be at least twenty-one (21) years of age to open an account with DraftKings (“Account”).
Professional or amateur athletes, sports agents, coaches, team owners, team employees, referees or league officials, and their immediate family members, are not eligible to participate in, and are strictly prohibited from entering, any DraftKings Games in the sport in which they are associated.
An Authorized Account Holder shall not register an account on behalf of another individual or for any other person who is otherwise prohibited by applicable law to register an account or play in any Games.
When creating an account, the athletes would have been required to acknowledge the terms and conditions, meaning they explicitly accept the terms — and the consequences of violating them.
Reporter: This isn’t all that serious
Since the news broke that wagers placed from Dekkers’ account totaled $2,799 on 366 separate bets, the response has been visceral.
Twitter has been, well, atwitter, alternately defending and railing against Dekkers. In the publication Defector, Israel Daramola, who describes himself on LinkedIn as “covering pop culture and sports with the irreverence it deserves,” essentially bashes the law and Dekkers’ responsibility as a scholarship athlete by writing:
The details of the complaint argue against its seriousness. Crucially, Dekkers is alleged to have conspired with his own parents, Jami and Scott Dekkers, in the dastardly scheme to allow him to do some sports betting on his phone. This is the equivalent of prosecutors filing criminal charges against a 20-year-old because his parents bought him some beers. If anything—with sports gambling embedded as an almost passive activity in regular American life, and the various sports leagues firmly entangled with betting corporations like DraftKings—what the Dekkers are alleged to have done may be even more normal and boring than that. Next we will learn that they let him mow the neighbors’ lawns without a work permit when he was only 13. This one goes all the way to the top, boys.
Nope, Israel, neither of those things rise to the level of what Dekkers is accused of doing. What Dekkers did touches the very core of the integrity of sports and exposes a lack of morality or social conscience. If Dekkers or any other college or pro athlete wants to bet that badly, they should consider giving up their sport, because every bet they make on it slowly chips away at the purity of the product on the field.
There is no denying that sports betting has proliferated since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in 2018. There is also no denying that athletes from every major professional league and every college program in the U.S. are privy to at least some degree of education around gambling.
Sports betting has been legal in Iowa for four years, and the state’s college athletes receive training concerning it from both their universities and the NCAA, which has stringent guidelines around wagering, particularly when it involves a team an athlete plays on.
The justification that the Dekker family is peddling is almost as ridiculous as the idea that a man would walk into an Ohio sportsbook with nearly $100,000 in cash and try to place a bet on a college baseball game while texting with one of the team’s head coaches. Oh, wait … that allegedly happened. So maybe the Dekker family’s angle is actually the less believable of the two.
And as the NFL has been slowly doling out punishments for betting — to 10 players, so far — it would seem that the league would shy away from even considering drafting a college football player accused of betting on his own team.
Brad Bohannon cost himself his job as the University of Alabama’s baseball coach. He is a grown adult paying the price for his own ludicrous decision. Hunter Dekkers is still a young man whose parents, instead of trying to help him find a way to cheat the system, should have been counseling him on how to best protect his future, which could now be lost for the low, low price of $2,799.