Sports Betting A Hot Topic At NCAA Convention

Sports betting could launch in North Carolina by March Madness, and the topic was at the forefront of last week’s NCAA Convention in Phoenix.

The organization’s president, Charlie Baker, discussed initiatives related to sports betting during his first State of the College address to a packed audience of more than 2,600 students and administrators.

“Sports betting is basically everywhere, especially on campuses, and the harm it can cause is real,” Baker said. “Every conversation about the team, the competition, and the health and well-being of their teammates is not just chatter anymore, but currency for some and inside information for others.”

That same day, a panel of industry experts discussed the impact of sports betting on college athletics in one of the first sessions of the convention. The NCAA’s gambling harm prevention programs and Baker’s actions to educate student-athletes about wagering are in sync with some North Carolina programs as the deadline to launch online sports betting in North Carolina nears.

Updating the NCAA’s approach to sports betting

Baker criticized the NCAA’s previous approach to sports betting in college athletics, calling the organization’s education materials “outdated” and “ineffective.” He also said that penalties are “too harsh” on students.

In addition to ushering in new educational programs and bringing in a data science firm to collect data on harassment athletes face from bettors, the NCAA is working on a partnership with the NFL to educate student-athletes and coaches on problem gambling.

Baker, who was the governor of Massachusetts before taking over the NCAA, also indicated that he has plans to discuss state legislation that protects student-athletes and the integrity of games with his former gubernatorial colleagues.

Industry experts weigh in

The featured panel “Sports Betting Harm Prevention” included input from industry experts and NCAA administrators who discussed everything from online abuse of student-athletes from gamblers to harm prevention programs. Moderated by NCAA Managing Director of Enterprise Risk Management Clint Hangebrauck, participants included:

  • Teresa Fiore, vice president of partnerships at EPIC Global Solutions. The NCAA partnered with EPIC to provide member schools, including four in NC so far, a free sports gambling harm prevention program.
  • Timothy W. Fong, professor of psychiatry at UCLA and co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program.
  • Jonathan Hirshler, co-founder and chief executive officer of Signify Group.
  • Mark Hicks, managing director of enforcement at the NCAA.

The discussion primarily centered around three topics:

  • Preventing student-athletes from developing a gambling addiction
  • Preserving the integrity of college sports
  • Combatting online harassment of student-athletes by sports bettors

Fong, who recalled sports betting scandals at his alma mater, Northwestern, discussed the noxious comments and threats he’s seen online on social media platforms and even within sports betting apps.

“I can’t imagine coming back to my college dorm room or into my apartment and opening my email or opening my Instagram or my Twitter and getting just hate,” he said. “Now, I’m on the gambling apps a lot and it’s fascinating to me when I go into the chat section of all these apps and it is nonstop tirade of abusive language and coarse language.”

Panel attendees also got to see a preview of the NCAA’s upcoming “Draw the Line” educational campaign that will debut in March on Selection Sunday in tandem with Problem Gambling Awareness Month and March Madness on digital, social and broadcast channels.

NC efforts to protect college students

Overall, North Carolina has 46 NCAA institutions, 18 of which are Division I schools. Only California, Texas and New York have more DI schools. This year, EPIC will roll out responsible gaming training to East Carolina University, High Point University, Duke University and UNC Pembroke.

The North Carolina Lottery Commission announced the training in September along with other responsible gambling programs, including a media campaign at college stadiums and a federally funded recovery program. These efforts are timely as Gov. Roy Cooper is pushing for the lottery commission to launch online sports betting in time for March Madness.


Image Credit: NCAA

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Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward started her career as a news reporter in Washington, DC. She's a die-hard women's basketball fan and founded the website as a result of that passion. She loves writing about sports on all levels and has previous experience covering sports betting regulations, operator marketing campaigns and women's sports gambling topics.