US Senate Committee Hears Argument For and Against Collegiate Sports Betting

A debate was held to discuss whether allowing bets on collegiate sports would erode the integrity of the sports.

Betting on College Sports Puts Sports Integrity at Risk

College sports betting is slowly being legalized across the United States. The practice has sparked a debate about the morality of the practice so much that the US Senate Committee had to weigh in and hear arguments from both proponents of the measure and those who opposed it.

The meeting was entitled “Protecting the Integrity of College Athletics” and it included a number of college representatives, educators, lobbyists and industry specialists.

Heather Lyke, the athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh was present on the behalf of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the University both.

Ms Lyke said that while the repeal of PASPA was understandable and sports betting was here to stay, the U.S. Congress was supposed to take action so as to preserve the integrity of intercollegiate athletics.

She directly asked for a prohibition on any sports betting that targets collegiate contests. Her argument ran on the lines that the practice would be detrimental to the integrity of collegiate sports:

“The introduction of legal wagering on intercollegiate athletics will have a corrosive and detrimental impact on student-athletes and the general student body alike. Gambling creates pressures and temptations that should not exist.”

She explained that students may become victims of corrupt practices and fall victim to gambling firms who want to push their interests. Ms Lyke said that even if the NCAA were to enact far-reaching measures that warn students and athletes of the dangers of gambling and outright prohibit it as per current law, the “corrosive effect” would be nevertheless widespread.

She further explained that sports teams have both the finances and man power to enforce integrity whereas most colleges in the country would struggle to do the same.

American Gaming Association Disagrees

Bill Miller, president and chief executive at the American Gaming Association (AGA) didn’t agree with Ms Lyke’s argument. According to him, collegiate betting would happen whether it has been legalized by law or not.

The only difference is that by bringing college sports betting out in the open, you can actually moderate the level of illegal gambling often going to illegitimate gambling website. Miller acknowledge the fears from those opposing collegiate betting, i.e. that underpaid athletes might be willing to participate in gambling schemes for additional profit.

“While that may indeed be the case, it is also perhaps the most compelling reason to apply strict regulatory oversight and that only comes from the legal market.”

Americans, Miller said, have a clear interest in wagering on the outcome of sports betting contests and they would do so regardless of the nature of betting, i.e. legal or illegal. A recent survey by AGA, though, showcased that when informed, most sports bettors would choose to stick with sportsbooks considered legal.

Miller explained that one of the reasons why PASPA had failed was because of its prohibitive nature hoping to uproot sports betting while there were over $150 billion wagered annually offshore, a number that is still speculative, but has likely grown.

Miller agreed that the U.S. Congress’ original purpose wasn’t to intensify offshore sports betting, but PASPA had effectively done just that.

“Though certainly not what Congress intended, this failed policy inadvertently provided a near monopoly to illegal gambling operations that fuel other criminal activity.”

Tackle Match-Fixing via Regulation

According to Miller, the best way to uproot match-fixing is none other than empowering sportsbooks that hold an official license to carry out sports betting operations and let them work out match-fixing behavior.

Looking into data provided from legal sports wagers allows regulators and overseeing bodies to spot fraudulent patterns not only in the United States, but globally. Nevada has been one of the main examples where fraudulent activities have been uncovered consistently thanks to the legalization of sports betting.

Lindsay Graham, committee chair, said that he was reserved against proposition bets on college games, but Miller explained that even in the case of proposition betting, sportsbooks have a way of ensuring the integrity of the game.

As Miller put it, sportsbooks are just as keen on not allowing match-fixing as are colleges.

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