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Representing a major, official tide turn in NCAA policy regarding sports wagering, the NCAA announced in a statement on Thursday that it supports federal sports betting regulation.
“Our highest priorities in any conversation about sports wagering are maintaining the integrity of competition and student-athlete well-being,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA president. “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.”
This announcement comes in the wake of the NCAA’s loss in the Supreme Court sports betting case, aka Murphy v NCAA on Monday, in which the high court ruled that the 1992 federal ban on sports wagering outside Nevada was unconstitutional.
That case turned on 10th Amendment grounds where the law in question (PASPA) “commandeered” states to enforce or carry out federal policy, by forcing them to keep certain anti-gambling laws on the books, or preventing states from adjusting them.
“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.”
Writing the majority opinion for the Supreme Court, Justice Alito said:
The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not. PASPA ‘regulate[s] state governments’ regulation’ of their citizens … The Constitution gives Congress no such power. The judgment of the Third Circuit is reversed.”
More than two dozen states have held hearings concerning sports wagering or have legislation on the table that would allow states to regulate, license and tax sportsbook operators. Those states include Indiana, where the NCAA is headquartered.
New Jersey, which fought the NCAA and pro sports leagues for nearly a decade leading up to the Supreme Court case, is moving full speed ahead with legalization. Other states set to join Nevada this year include Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Mississippi and Delaware.
Another NCAA Change
The NCAA has now moved to allow its various sports championships to be conducted in states that allow sports wagering.
The suspended policy had prohibited any NCAA championship competition from occurring in any state that allows single-game sports wagering (Nevada). The college sports governing body has already announced its venues for its preliminary and championship rounds for men’s basketball through 2022 with a significant number of games set for states likely to have sports wagering in place before those games are played. Among those states are New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Iowa.
The Board of Governors says it may consider more permanent revisions of the championship host policy regarding sports wagering during future meetings. NCAA policy restricting sports gambling sponsorships and advertising remains in place for the various NCAA championships and Football Bowl Subdivision postseason bowls.
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.
The policy change on venues, should it be extended or become permanent, would, for the first time, open up Las Vegas as a possible NCAA championship venue. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCVA), the government agency that promotes tourism and visitation in Southern Nevada, has long sought to host major NCAA championship events, particularly the men’s basketball championship and its preliminary rounds.
West Coast conferences including the PAC 12 and others have conducted their post-season tournaments in Las Vegas in recent years. Las Vegas remains an attractive destination for such tournaments because of its thousands of hotel rooms adjacent to or near its indoor arenas and its reputation in the hospitality industry as a popular tourist destination.
The LVCVA, funded largely through a room tax, typically will pay a significant subsidy to attract events such as the National Finals Rodeo, UFC event, and others, to come to Southern Nevada.
A Deal in Place
The NCAA policy suspension comes on the heels of an announcement Monday that it has reached a 10-year data collection and distribution deal with Genius Sports, a London-based sports data and technology company.
The deal was announced before the Supreme Court decision certain to expand legal sports betting in the United States and represents NCCA acceptance of change in the sports wagering landscape, industry observers say.
Oliver Luck, executive vice president of regulatory affairs and strategic partnerships for the NCAA, said in a release: “This initiative will transform the way we collect, use, and distribute the vast amount of sports data being consumed across all sports at every level. It will allow our schools to upgrade to state-of-the-art technology.”
The technology is expected to be available in a progressive rollout starting with the 2019 women’s basketball tournaments.
Genius Sports also has partnerships with Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour and the Premier League. Sportsbook operators, to establish betting lines and manage risk, commonly use such data platforms. A Genius Sports’ subsidiary, Betgenius, currently offers numerous integrated services to betting operators in the United States and internationally.
The partnership with the NCAA does not include any betting rights, a Genius Sports spokesperson told ESPN.
Data collection, and who will have access to such data remains a contentious issue as various states seek to implement sports wagering laws. Sportbook operators typically favor an independent data source or sources rather than a league-controlled resource monopoly, for which they could be subjected to significant fees. Such data is vital to in-game wagering, an increasingly popular form of sports betting