Could SBC Summit Panel Tip The Scales On NC College Prop Betting Ban?

There is a lot of conversation swirling around the idea of states banning college player prop bets because college athletes are being harassed by bettors. These bans also took center stage at a panel at the SBC Summit, a conference that focuses on the US gambling industry.

North Carolina is one of the states pursuing such a ban. Two identical bills to prohibit college prop bets, one in the House and another in the Senate, were filed on May 1.

While the goal is to improve North Carolina responsible gambling practices, not all experts agree that a ban is the right solution.

SBC Summit Panel Focused on the Future of College Sports Betting

At the SBC Summit, the topic was taken up during a panel called “The College Controversy Continues: Where’s the Final Destination for University Sports?”

One of the panelists was Gary Smith Jr., vice president of operations for Magnolia Companies of Louisiana and a former state senator. Louisiana’s ban on college player prop bets will begin in August, so his insight carried weight. Smith said the ban’s purpose is to remove pressure on college athletes.

“We don’t want to put that pressure on young athletes to perform and have to answer to individuals who may be able to obtain access to them, who didn’t do so well in betting or maybe want to see a certain outcome,” Smith said.

This rang true for former University of North Carolina basketball player Armando Bacot, who outlined to WRAL News some of the harassment he received during the NCAA Tournament. Bacot said:

“It’s terrible. Even at the last game, I guess I didn’t get enough rebounds or something. I thought I played pretty good last game, but I looked at my (direct messages), and I got, like, over 100 messages from people telling me I sucked and stuff like that because I didn’t get enough rebounds.”

Situations like this are why Tar Heel State legislators have filed two bills to ban these sorts of wagers from North Carolina sports betting.

North Carolina Bills to Ban College Player Prop Bets Filed on May 1

North Carolina State Rep. Marcia Morey filed House Bill 967, legislation that would ban college player prop bets, on May 1. Sen. Julie Mayfield filed an identical bill, Senate Bill 788, the same day.

These pieces of legislation are meant to amend the original North Carolina sports betting law that went into effect last March. They would ban all bets on specific player props for college and amateur sports, which the sports betting bill defines as Olympic-style events.

The bills also propose to ban in-person wagers at sports facilities for eight hours before or during any college game or event. That aspect of the legislation seems to be directed at PNC Arena, which is home to the North Carolina State University men’s basketball team. There is no retail sportsbook in the facility, but there are plans to add one eventually.

The NCAA, which has been on a press tour recently calling for a nationwide ban on college prop bets, is supporting the North Carolina bills. NCAA President Charlie Baker says they are working with states to address this issue:

“Sports betting issues are on the rise across the country, with prop bets continuing to threaten the integrity of competition and leading to student-athletes getting harassed. The NCAA has been working with states to deal with these threats, and many are responding by banning college prop bets.”

No Consensus on What’s Best for Both College Athletes and Gamblers

While many, including some North Carolina lawmakers and the NCAA, think banning college player prop bets will help with the issues surrounding such wagers, other interested parties do not agree.

University of Nevada Las Vegas Distinguished Fellow in Responsible Gaming Alan Feldman spoke against the ban. Feldman believes it comes up short of solving the problem and could actually make things worse.

“One of the ways to make (sports betting) worse is to drive it underground,” he said. “The moment you do, you no longer have any visibility of who’s doing what. I’m not suggesting, by the way, that there isn’t an issue with prop bets. I’m just suggesting that maybe there’s a way you could work with the industry to adjust it in a way that doesn’t place the onus on a named individual. I worry about that.”

It is not that Feldman thinks all is well with college player prop betting. But banning something has never removed it from the board. It simply leads to less regulation and oversight. Feldman believes that would be the case with these bans; they would not eliminate the problem but sweep it under the rug.

“When I see on a board the name of an 18-year-old college student as a bet you can make, there’s something disquieting about that. But just trying to eliminate that as if it’s just going to go away, obviously that’s not going to happen,” he said.

It seems unlikely in the near-term that North Carolina will ban these wagers. But stakeholders agree there is a need to protect college athletes from unwarranted threats.

Image credit: AP Photo/Ashley Landis

About the Author

T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver who covers the Nuggets as a beat writer. He regularly contributes to NC Sharp on issues surrounding the online gambling market. His byline can be seen at ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report and others.