Universities in Massachusetts have joined efforts to protest against the legalization of collegiate sports betting in the state. With the sports betting product edging closer to a fully legal status, universities have said that they would oppose gambling on collegiate sports events.
With the state looking for additional revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sports betting is one of the sources of funding that could benefit the state’s coffers. However, if House Bill 4887 is endorsed by politicians, school bodies and universities want to ensure that it will exclude betting on collegiate sports.
A number of colleges and universities have come together and addressed a letter to legislators, urging them to reconsider any language that would pave the way for wagers on college-level events.
A total of seven schools signed off under the letter sent on Friday, with Harvard University among the most prominent schools on the list. The Harvard Crimson, the university’s own media outlet, has mentioned all signees by name, and they included presidents and athletic directors of Boston College, Boston University, the College of the Holy Cross, Merrimack College, Northeastern University, the University of Massachusetts, and Harvard.
Massachusetts Closer to Sports Betting, But New Obstacle Surfaces
Massachusetts has been trying to join one of the 20 states that now regulate their gambling industries, and specifically sports betting. HB 4887 hit a snag in July when the House of Representatives delivered it to the Senate floor with language enabling sportsbooks to offer bets on collegiate sports.
The Senate didn’t approve the bill and returned it to the House for amendments. The Senate’s view adequately reflects the sentiment expressed in the letter addressed to lawmakers, and specifically that:
“Based on our years of experience, each of us believes that such legislation will create unnecessary and unacceptable risks to student athletes, their campus peers, and the integrity and culture of colleges and universities in the Commonwealth.”
However, proponents of the bill have argued that there is no evidence that enabling sports betting on collegiate events undermines their integrity. In fact, a similar argument was made by sports leagues about sports betting as a whole.
Leagues claimed that sportsbooks should pay mandatory integrity fees as they needed the additional money to prevent fraudulent activities. However, they never could prove how the integrity fees would help fight match-fixing and the idea was quickly dropped.
In fact, many have argued that the illegal gambling market is already offering bets on collegiate events and it’s only through the legalization of gambling that collegiate gambling can be moderated.
Even organizations such as the NCAA, NFL and MLB have agreed that athletes should control branding rights over their own name and image surrendering control to athletes and cutting the middle men out.