Sports betting and college athletics are scheduled to be the subjects of discussion at a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing coming up this week.
On Thursday, ESPN reported that Wednesday’s hearing — titled Protecting the Integrity of College Athletics — will focus on possible federal legislation regarding student-athletes’ rights to use their name, image, and likeness for compensation purposes while playing college sports. Beyond that, though, lawmakers plan to also talk about the impact gambling has on collegiate athletics.
A spokesperson for Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Casino.org that the list of witnesses for the hearing has not yet been announced.
On Friday, US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), a committee member, told Sports Illustrated that the hearing would be split into two parts, with the latter portion devoted to sports betting.
While most sports fans will likely pay more attention to the name, image, and likeness discussion, the testimony on sports betting could be significant and show if Congress is interested in federally regulating the activity.
Blumenthal Working on Bill
Blumenthal will likely be a pivotal player in any discussion about sports betting and college athletics.
At an Aspen Institute conference last December, a former University of Texas athletics administrator told attendees that the two-term senator was working on a bill that would protect athletes.
A spokesperson for the senator at the time told Casino.org then that Blumenthal had started early talks about a bill “related to the potential tax revenue raised by sports betting and our ongoing efforts to protect amateur athletes from exploitation.”
As states pass laws to legalize sports betting in their jurisdictions, there is no uniform approach to regulating betting on college athletics.
Oregon is the only sports betting state to completely ban its licensed sportsbook from taking bets on any college game. Several other states, including New Jersey, Illinois, and New York, ban betting on college games involving any in-state teams or any games played in that state.
Other states, including Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Nevada, allow full betting on college sports, including games involving in-state schools. Iowa allows in-state betting but prohibits bets on the performance of individual student-athletes.
Colleges Back Betting Bans
Colleges in some states have put up a full-court press in an effort to keep their lawmakers from allowing bets on their sports teams. College administrators have pushed for outright bans and the ability to determine the types of bets available to the public.
They say it’s to protect their student-athletes from coercion and from encountering threats made by their fellow students who may have lost money due to their performance.
Prosecutors have pursued charges against individuals who have made threats against student-athletes. Earlier this year, Louisville All-American Jordan Nwora told reporters he received a threat from someone who lost a bet after his Cardinals lost at archrival Kentucky.
In some cases, such colleges as Purdue in Indiana have taken it upon themselves to prohibit students, faculty, and staff from betting on their sports teams. Students face disciplinary action if they’re found violating the rule, and faculty and staff face punishments up to and including termination.
Critics of the attempt to ban college sports betting say that prohibiting licensed sportsbooks from taking bets drives more action to unlicensed and unregulated sportsbooks, and still leaves student-athletes exposed to threats and harassment. Regulated sportsbooks also can identify suspicious betting behavior and alert the authorities when they discover integrity issues.