Gambling and Collegiate Athletics

By Epstein, Adam; Niland, Bridget | The International Sports Law Journal, January-April 2009 | Go to article overview

Gambling and Collegiate Athletics

Epstein, Adam, Niland, Bridget, The International Sports Law Journal


As collegiate athletics has become a major part of the American sports scene, concerns over internal and external gambling influences have led to private rules and public laws that attempt to regulate such activity. College sport, similar to its professional counterpart, must constantly work to control egregious actions by those involved in sports gambling that could influence the outcome of the game. Anti-gambling rules and governmental laws are designed to curb various types of cheating, especially those linked to sports gambling in collegiate athletics.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) governs most of the intercollegiate sports in the United States and has responded to numerous gambling scandals over the years by enacting rules (i.e., bylaws) designed to punish violators which fall under its jurisdiction. Additionally, there have been numerous state and federal laws that have been enacted to curtail gamblers influencing the outcome of collegiate sports events. If the NCAA did not address and aggressively pursue individuals or groups who surreptitiously yet effectively influence who wins or who loses a sporting event, the public-at-large would lose faith in the college sports product. Fans, alumni, and others, would not know whether the game at-hand is played on an even field, or whether it is played in favor of one team over the other. This would simply ruin the integrity of college sports.

This contribution explores the intercollegiate sports gambling landscape. Section One introduces the popularity of gambling in the United States and specifically addresses the rise in sports gambling and the role college sports play in this new phenomena. Section Two focuses on the NCAA; more specifically, its governance structure, regulatory culture, anti-sports gambling regulations and the enforcement of those regulations. Section Four provides a summary of notable college sports gambling cases and the NCAA sanctions that resulted. Finally, Sections Five and Six discuss other policies and regulations that have attempted to curtail gambling on collegiate sports, including federal and state legislation.

1. Collegiate Sports Gambling

Gambling in general, including sports gambling, is a popular form of recreation in the United States and an increasingly popular pastime for youth and college-age adults. Revenue from all forms of gambling in the United States topped $90 billion in 2006 (American Gaming Association, 2008). Because of the tremendous revenue that gambling generates, governments at all levels within the United States have relaxed laws that once outlawed such wagering. For example, in the decade between 1985 and 1995, 48 of 50 states revised laws that prohibited gambling to allow limited legalized gaming, including regulated casino-style games and state-run lotteries (Dunstan, 1997; Eadington, 1996). as of 2007, Hawaii and Utah were the only states that prohibit any form of gambling within their boarders (Prah, 2007).

Although gambling on sports (professional or amateur) remains illegal in all states but Nevada and Oregon, an estimated $80 to $380 billion is illegally bet on sporting events in the United States each year (Kindt & Asmar, 2002; Weinberg, 2003). Gambling on collegiate or amateur sports is permitted only in Nevada, where it is estimated that $2.5 billion is annually wagered on college sports, $197 million of which is attributed to bets surrounding the NCAA's Division I men's basketball tournament (Armour, 2007; Weinberg, 2003). In addition, illegal gambling on the NCAA tournament through informal office or neighborhood betting pools is estimated at $6 billion (McCarthy, 2007a). Further evidence as to the pervasiveness of collegiate sports gambling is the "Latest Line" (i.e., the latest point spread on college basketball and football contests), which is published in daily newspapers throughout the United States and on the Internet (Grady & Clement, 2005). …

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