This Part 2 of a two-part series exploring what life is like for collegiate athletes and compliance officers as legal sports betting expands across the U.S. Go here for Part 1: D-I Student Athlete Talks Trust, Compliance In Post-PASPA Sports Betting Era.
University compliance officers around the country have their work cut out for them. For those in states where sports betting is now legal, it’s been a rush to develop new educational tools and messages, so that athletes not only understand what’s at risk, but also so those same student-athletes can still enjoy a mainstream college experience.
As sports betting has become legal in states across the country — 18 have legalized or launched sports betting since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in May 2018 — new concerns have developed. While the NCAA has always had a policy prohibiting sports betting by student-athletes, coaches and others involved with college sports programs, some universities don’t think that goes far enough. Three universities — Purdue, Villanova and St. Joseph’s — have instituted their own, more prohibitive sports betting policies. The general gist is that these universities want to completely eradicate the possibility or notion that another student or faculty member might be trading on information about a student-athlete’s status, health, well-being, workload and so forth.
At Sports Handle, we contacted more than a dozen universities across the country in search of comments from student-athletes and compliance officers. Of those dozen, only Cal State Fullerton made an athlete available (for an enlightening conversation), and only three agreed to interviews with compliance officers. To read what Fullerton pitcher Dillon Brown shared about his experience in a big-time college sports program with regard to sports betting, click here. Below, we’ll share what compliance officers had to say.
NCAA’s “Don’t Bet On It” in the era of legal sports betting
Melissa’s Monday Message: Student-Athletes & Athletics Department employees are not allowed to participate in any sports wagering activities for any NCAA-sponsored sport at ANY level (youth, high school, college, pro, etc.) DON’T BET ON IT! #BCompliant #WeAreBC #AskBeforeYouAct pic.twitter.com/elw4Hnvx6g
— BC Compliance (@BCCompliance) October 14, 2019
Compliance officers are on the front lines of not only interpreting the latest rules, but developing programs that will engage and educate the athletes. It is, according to compliance officers, an ongoing process. In most cases, athletes from the major team sports, including football and basketball, meet with compliance officers at the start of the school year or season for an overview of what’s changed, what the latest rules or laws are and ways to protect themselves. The education doesn’t stop there, though, as compliance officers continue to remind student-athletes by e-mail, newsletters and sometimes additional meetings ahead of visits to states with legal sports betting or a big event, such as college bowl season, the Super Bowl or March Madness.
That education can take many forms. At Purdue, compliance officer Tom Mitchell almost immediately created a PowerPoint presentation that examines what sports betting is, what the laws are and penalties for noncompiance. Though the presentation focuses on Indiana law, it is relevant to universities across the country.
At Cal State Fullerton, compliance officer Derric West has created “tip sheets” that he shares with athletes and staff on a regular basis. One of them reads, “Any time you put something of value at risk, whether it be a $1, a t-shirt, $5,000, for the chance of winning a prize based on the outcome of some athletics performance, you have participated in sports wagering.”
In all caps on the top of the page, the same sheet reads, “WARNING! GAMBLING AND INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS DO NOT MIX!”
According to NCAA rules, a student-athlete involved in sports betting could lose his or her scholarship and staff could be terminated. For compliance officers, the goal is to create a culture where they do not have to repeatedly remind student-athletes, faculty and staff of the dangers of their participation in sports betting (or gambling in general), but rather, a culture in which sports betting is essentially a non-issue.
Universities across the country call on the FBI, local law enforcement and sometimes the state’s gaming commission to help bring the message to students. Presentations can includes everything from scare tactics to skits to Q&A sessions. Former Colombo Crime Family member Michael Franzese is a favored speaker.
Here’s a look at what compliance officers around the country shared with Sports Handle:
Lyla Clerry, Associate Athletic Director, Compliance at University of Iowa
Sports wagering has always been a topic that we’ve educated our student-athletes and staff on, but the message has probably changed. It was always, “Don’t bet! Don’t bet!” But now it’s more about don’t share information even when you’re talking with your friends in the dorm, be careful of what you say.
We spend more time talking to them about how they can protect themselves rather than the law because the laws are different everywhere. … We’ve talked with local law enforcement, and we always like to bring in outside speakers because it gets old with us just standing up there saying the same thing.
Michael Franzese (former organized crime family member) spoke with student-athletes just about the dangers of gambling and about how easy it is to get caught up in it. It wasn’t really a scare tactic, but more of a reality check.
Tom Mitchell, Associate Athletic Director, Compliance at Purdue University
When we realized it was going to happen, the question was — What is this going to look like? One of the laws was going to include mobile, and one wasn’t. So we started looking at the whole process, education-wise. We talked to people in Mississippi and New Jersey, and the biggest thing was that we wanted to take a good look at what that state rule was and create new education. The big difference now is that I (as an employee) can’t bet on NCAA sports. The state law also says I can’t bet on Purdue sports, but also, anyone who lives in my household can’t, either.
The biggest message we told our student-athletes is to keep it in the family, and even more so now. We invited the FBI, the Indiana Gaming Commission, and our police department. The coolest part of the presentation as the skit, where (they showed how) you get involved with someone and then you owe them.
Derric West, Associate Athletics Director, Compliance at Cal State Fullerton
We definitely keep up to date on all the new laws … but for our situation here at Cal State Fullerton in terms of keeping athletes informed, is we have a check-in meeting, and we just go through a whole bunch of compliance-related material. Sports betting, wagering is one of the topics we touch on. We set up a PowerPoint and we tell them that any sport the NCAA sponsors, they are not able to bet on this sports. I just try to give them real-life examples so they can relate to it.
So, around big events I send out an e-mail reminding them no betting, so it’s like, ‘Hey, the Super Bowl is coming up, Don’t bet on it!’ It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of those events, so we have tip sheets we send out to our student-athletes. We’re going to the practices of the teams … and then we just give them some education on whatever the relevant education is at that point, we go over it. Just catch them multiple times over the year.
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