Gambling on player performances raises NCAA concerns

An article in the USA Today reported that gamblers are now being offered the opportunity to bet on Final Four game performances of individual players such as Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Derrick Rose and Joey Dorsey of the University of Memphis, Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers of Kansas University, and Kevin Love and Josh Shipp of the University of California at Los Angeles. Las Vegas sports books are offering “prop bets,” including over-under wagers on points scored or points-rebounds-assists totals, and whether a player will make a clutch free throw. The article noted that betting on college and pro basketball in Nevada more than doubled to $228 million in March 2007 from $107 million the previous month.

The NCAA has an active campaign to discourage gambling on college sports, especially among college athletes of its member institutions. While its rules prohibit such behavior because of its impact on the integrity of the game, alarming statistics provide a glimpse regarding the influence of gambling on amateur athletes. The Sports Law Blog noted the NCAA’s 2003 National Study on Collegiate Sports Wagering found that 2.3 percent of football players and 2.1 percent of men’s basketball players admitted in questionnaires that they had been asked to affect the outcome of a game because of gambling debts. In addition, 1.1 percent of football players and 0.5 percent of basketball players reported that they had taken money for playing poorly in a game. And 17.2 percent of male Division-I student athletes reported that they had bet on collegiate sports.

According to the USA Today article, a spokeswoman for the NCAA stated it lets schools decide how to handle prop bets on their student athletes, and that some schools have asked casinos to take those prop bets off the board. However, a spokesman for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill told the USA Today that it looks to the NCAA “to lead the way” on gambling issues. In a 2004 press release regarding the results of the 2003 study, NCAA President Myles Brand said: “The scope of sports wagering among intercollegiate student-athletes is startling and disturbing. Sports wagering is a double-threat because it harms the well-being of student-athletes and the integrity of college sports.”