Massachusetts College Presidents Say ‘No’ To College Sports Wagering

Posted on September 15, 2020

It’s currently illegal to wager on any sporting events in Massachusetts, and there are people who would like to see that status quo remain the same when it comes to Massachusetts college sports betting. University presidents and athletic directors in the state have recently made those sentiments clear.

Other states who have already legalized sports betting within their borders have varied in their approaches to this subject. In the same way, colleges and universities have differed in their actions regarding gambling.

The hub-bub about Massachusetts college sports betting

In the next legislative session, the Massachusetts Assembly may look again at legalizing sports betting.

The presidents of the eight colleges and universities that participate in D1 basketball would like that framework to exclude wagering on collegiate events.

Their joint statement says that legal betting on college sports would result in, “unnecessary and unacceptable risks to student-athletes, their campus peers, and the integrity and culture of colleges and universities in the Commonwealth.”

People have made similar arguments in other jurisdictions.

They continue by saying college sports wagering, “will increase temptations and pressures on student-athletes to influence the outcome of games or point spreads in return for financial reward or other benefits from betting interests.”

Additionally, college athletes may receive harsh criticism from bettors who lost money due to their actions.

The counterargument, however, is that excluding college sports teams actually encourages match-fixing because it excludes their games from the integrity monitoring that regulated markets provide.

Also, people who attempt to fix games tend to use illegal bookies and/or offshore channels to place their wagers.

Different jurisdictions have chosen to regulate this segment of the industry differently so far. To this point, there doesn’t seem to be a clear best way to handle the concerns.

Indiana’s “laissez-faire” to Virginia’s local exemptions

States like Colorado and Indiana treat wagering on college sports like any other event. Both of those states have no special laws or regulations for wagering on college sporting events.

Then there are states like Iowa and Tennessee, which have acted to limit wagering on college sports while still allowing it. Both of those states merely have restrictions on in-game and/or prop bets on college sports.

For states like Illinois and Virginia, it’s illegal to bet on any college games involving in-state teams.

It’s too early to tell which of these approaches is best. Integrity controls are like most car parts. You only really notice them when they aren’t working.

In a similar way, the reaction of colleges in these states has differed. Colorado and Purdue are two examples of universities at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Purdue’s ban and Colorado’s brand

Last year, Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, made it a violation of the school’s code for any faculty, staff, or students to bet on Boilermaker sporting events. That includes placing bets with sportsbooks operating legally in the Hoosier State.

Just last week, Colorado’s athletic department announced a cross-promotional partnership with PointsBet. PointsBet is an Australian-based company. It offers online casino as well as online and retail sports betting in many states, including sports betting in Colorado.

So while one college will suspend students for betting on its sports, another will have a hand in encouraging the same activity. Again, it’s too early to tell which approach will be for the better.

For bettors, however, this will be something of interest as the process of legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts goes forward. We know which side college presidents in the Bay State are on.

Photo by AP Newsroom
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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