Menendez, Booker, Cortez Masto Urge NCAA to Reevaluate Position Preventing Championship Play in States with Sports Betting

Menendez, Booker, Cortez Masto Urge NCAA to Reevaluate Position Preventing Championship Play in States with Sports Betting

“We strongly believe that the NCAA, its member schools, student-athletes from member universities, and fans could greatly benefit if NCAA revisited its opposition to legal and regulated sports wagering.”

 
WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today sent a letter to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) urging it to re-evaluate its position on sports wagering and its policy of preventing championship events in states that permit sports betting, including Nevada and New Jersey. The letter was sent in advance of the NCAA’s annual Board of Directors meeting, during which the Association reviews its rules and policies.

“The NCAA’s current opposition to all forms of sports wagering—including in states where it has been legalized—is overbroad,” wrote Cortez Masto, Menendez, and Booker. “We urge the NCAA to re-evaluate its policy and embrace the carefully crafted regulatory controls that legalized sports wagering brings.  We further request that the NCAA Board of Directors, the highest governing body in the NCAA, officially review this policy at your April 26, 2017, meeting.”

New Jersey, which has hosted numerous NCAA championship events including the 1996 Final Four, was shut out of hosting any major Division I and II collegiate sporting events through 2022 when the NCAA recently announced its more than 600 host sites.  The NCAA has filed suit blocking New Jersey’s 2011 sports betting law.

“We believe the NCAA’s policies on sports wagering are counterproductive to the NCAA’s stated goal of protecting the integrity of the game. College sports fans largely ignore the prohibition, and instead they bet using offshore and illegal sports books…Far from preventing sports wagering, a prohibition on sports betting simply encourages people to wager through high-risk and unregulated means,” the senators continued.

The commissioners of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA)—two other sports leagues that joined in the NCAA’s suit challenging New Jersey’s sports wagering law—have recently softened their public stance on legalized, regulated sports gaming.

“We are not asking that the NCAA change its prohibition on sports wagering for student-athletes, coaches, or administrators. However, we are requesting that the NCAA Board of Directors re-evaluate its position on sports wagering and site selection for championship play,” the letter stated. “The current policy on sports wagering and site selection for championship play penalizes student-athletes who choose to attend institutions in sports wagering states, denying them the opportunity to experience hosting NCAA championship events in their state or on their campuses.”

Full text of the senators’ letter can be found here and below.

Division I Board of Directors

The National Collegiate Athletic Association

700 W. Washington Street
P.O. Box 6222
Indianapolis, Indiana 46206

Dear Members of the NCAA Board of Directors:

We write to you regarding the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s position on sports wagering and its policy to not permit championship play in states that allow sports wagering. We support the NCAA’s prohibition against sports wagering for student-athletes, coaches, or administrators, and believe these rules are important for protecting the integrity of college sports and its participants. However, the NCAA’s current opposition to sports wagering—including in states where it has been legalized—is overbroad. We urge the NCAA to re-evaluate its policy and embrace the carefully crafted regulatory controls that legalized sports wagering brings. We further request that the NCAA Board of Directors, the highest governing body in the NCAA, officially review this policy at your April 26, 2017, meeting.

Nevada is currently the only state that legally operates regulated single-game sports wagering; however, the NCAA has maintained a long-standing policy prohibiting championship events from being held in jurisdictions that permit single-game sports wagering. New Jersey also has repeatedly challenged the prohibition on sports wagering, an issue currently being looked into by the Supreme Court and the NJ Solicitor General’s office. Yet the NCAA has vociferously opposed New Jersey’s effort in the media and in the courts.

We believe the NCAA’s policies on sports wagering are counterproductive to the NCAA’s stated goal of protecting the integrity of the game. College sports fans largely ignore the prohibition, and instead they bet using offshore and illegal sports books. For example, the American Gaming Association estimated that $10.4 billion was wagered on the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 2017, yet only $295 million of that was legally wagered. Overall the American Gaming Association estimates that Americans wager at least $150 billion on sports every year. Far from preventing sports wagering, a prohibition on sports betting simply encourages people to wager through high-risk and unregulated means.

A re-evaluation of the NCAA policies on sports wagering would also have other profound benefits beyond depriving business from underground and illegal enterprises. Consumers, including fans of NCAA sanctioned sports, would be provided common-sense protections to make sure businesses aren’t taking advantage of them; sports betting is currently one of the most highly controlled and professional industries in the state of Nevada. If New Jersey were to be successful in its efforts to legalize sports wagering, the industry would become similarly well regulated. Legalized sports betting could inject additional resources into public health programs designed to help those with gambling addictions to seek counseling.

Other sports organizations are increasingly understanding that opposition to sports wagering is counterproductive. National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver has long advocated for the legalization and regulation of sports betting. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has also said that federal regulation of sports wagering needs “fresh consideration” and it “seems like a pretty good idea” to him.

On April 11, 2017, President Emmert noted that the “NCAA frequently review[s] policies and legislation to determine if changes are needed to better serve our mission and core values.” We are not asking that the NCAA change its prohibition on sports wagering for student-athletes, coaches, or administrators. However, we are requesting that the NCAA Board of Directors re-evaluate its position on sports wagering and site selection for championship play.

The current policy on sports wagering and site selection for championship play penalizes student-athletes who choose to attend institutions in sports wagering states, denying them the opportunity to experience hosting NCAA championship events in their state or on their campuses. Expanding championship siting through a shift in NCAA policy could also add to the student-athlete experience for students in sports wagering states by decreasing travel time, expenses, and potentially, the amount of missed class time.

We strongly believe that the NCAA, its member schools, student-athletes from member universities, and fans could greatly benefit if NCAA revisited its opposition to legal and regulated sports wagering.

Sincerely,

 

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