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Once again, Indiana is acting as the testing ground for a sports body’s effort to influence sports betting legislation.
Months after the NBA and MLB debuted their proposed framework there, the NCAA is following suit, but rejecting the so-called integrity fee concept.
The governing body of college sports submitted testimony during a sports betting hearing conducted last week:
The NCAA — in what appears to be its first formal submission to a legislative body since the May 2018 Supreme Court decision — filed a two page 'Sports Wagering Principles' statement to the Indiana General Assembly this past Friday. Opening paragraph below: pic.twitter.com/0ZBBgtmYab
— Ryan M. Rodenberg (@SportsLawProf) October 23, 2018
The previous submission Rodenberg references is a brief statement in reply to the PASPA decision. This testimony, then, represents the association’s first public efforts to shape sports betting laws at the state level.
It could be the right place to start too. NCAA headquarters are located less than a mile from the statehouse in Indianapolis.
At less than two pages long, the NCAA testimony is comparatively brief. It gets straight to the point after that intro, outlining a legislative to-do list in four sections:
Lawmakers are already familiar with most of this list. The NCAA’s outline mirrors the framework being shopped around by pro leagues, though it more closely resembles the NFL model.
All parties agree on the need to address the illegal market, and to protect bettors and the integrity of the games. Coaches and athletes should be restricted, of course, as should anyone excluded from gambling. Young folks are out too.
There are unanimous requests from leagues for control over allowable bet types, as well as the mandated use of official league data. The NCAA has a data partnership with Genius Sports, and it would very much prefer sportsbooks pay for usage.
While not in complete lockstep with the pros, these efforts carry the same broad tone. You can read the full testimony here.
Notably, the integrity fee does not make an appearance in the NCAA’s written testimony. In fact, the NCAA explicitly rejects the integrity fee concept in an adopted resolution:
WHEREAS some have advocated that NCAA members financially benefit from new state laws, including integrity fees levied on sports wagering revenues, the NCAA chooses to focus its attention on education, the protection of student-athletes and staff, and a standard approach to game integrity through consistent national guidelines.
Starting in Indiana early this year, the NBA/MLB alliance has asked for a percentage of all wagers to increase monitoring and enforcement efforts. What was initially another pillar of league lobbying, however, has since been pushed aside in favor of other requests.
The pro leagues are now focused on receiving compensation for data and/or a straight-up royalty for allowing bets on the games they provide. It’s more of a pivot in terminology, as lawmakers have been near-unanimous in rejecting the notion of an integrity fee.
The NCAA’s omission is especially noteworthy as it may have more leverage to ask for money than its professional counterparts. Protecting student-athletes rather than pros could resonate with legislators. And unpaid amateurs could be more susceptible to betting-related corruption.
That said, the NCAA has good reasons for skipping over this fee.
Primarily, much of the public already sees the refusal to pay student-athletes as a sign of organizational greed. One would expect some outrage if betting funneled big money to the NCAA while student-athletes struggle to pay for books.
The association is likely to seek compensation for the use of its data, but its testimony includes no direct mention of any fees or royalties.
Taking a pass on the integrity fee is even more noteworthy considering the tangible steps the NCAA is taking to combat potential issues. While the pro leagues are talking about strengthening integrity tools, the colleges are doing something about it.
In September, the NCAA said it would enhance its monitoring of the global sports betting market. The announcement came about a month after the board established a task force to “explore how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.”
According to Championships executive Joni Comstock, the efforts focus on six areas:
As it formed that new group in August, the NCAA Board of Governors also adopted a sports betting resolution:
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by unanimous vote that the Board of Governors reaffirm its support to maintain current NCAA legislation that prohibits NCAA student-athletes, member institutions’ athletics staff and non-athletics staff with athletics responsibilities, and conference office staff from participating in sports wagering activities. Further, the Board directs the divisional governance bodies to examine existing legislation related to sports wagering and explore whether additional legislation is appropriate recognizing a change in environment that includes legalized sports wagering, but that also safeguards fair competition and ethical practices expected in intercollegiate athletics programs and benefits nearly 500,000 student-athletes.
It looks like the task force and its subsequent legislative efforts are the first tangible results of that August meeting.
The NCAA’s proposed framework does include one new and notable request:
Sports wagering operators are prohibited from obtaining or using the protected health information of amateur or professional athletes without the consent of the individual.
Although official data has been a pillar of league proposals for many months, the conversation has recently grown more granular. Lawmakers are now being asked to give individual athletes the discretion to disclose their health for betting purposes. The NCAA in particular could harbor concerns related to HIPAA and FERPA laws.
Injury reporting and the availability of information are key talking points amid the expansion of sports betting. Some are taking that idea even farther.
Two days prior, a representative from the National Basketball Players Association made another ear-catching request at an Illinois sports betting hearing. Clarence Nesbitt asked lawmakers to craft laws that “clarify that players own their own performance and biometric data.”
There is also a tiny morsel of new logic included in the section regarding betting restrictions. The NCAA argues that certain types of wagers “pose a significant risk to the safety of participants” in addition to the oft-cited integrity concerns.