The NCAA finished the job this week that it started last year by permanently axing its policy banning championship games from states with legal sports betting.
The move clears the way for Las Vegas and similar prime tourist destinations to host national title games in the post-PASPA world. This could include the College Football Playoff, Final Four, Frozen Four, and other crown-jewel events for the NCAA.
NCAA officials quietly reached out to people involved in the development of the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium to express future interest if the ban ever fell, according to sources close to the process. Legal Sports Report first learned of these informal discussions in 2017.
NCAA ban didn’t stop Las Vegas from trying
The area’s special-events arm, Las Vegas Events, two years ago bid to host a handful of smaller NCAA championship games in the next cycle of awards. That bid obviously did not advance because of the decades-old policy preventing national title events in states with single-game wagering.
NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham explained the policy to Vegas Inc in 2017:
“Generally speaking, the NCAA championship sports wagering policy prohibits the conducting of any championship session in a state with legal wagering that is based on single-game betting. This policy is in place to ensure the integrity of the game, provide consistency in awarding NCAA championships and address concerns for student-athlete well-being.”
The NCAA temporarily suspended that ban shortly after the fall of the federal ban on single-game wagering. This permanent stop allows Las Vegas to flex its event muscle for some of the country’s most prominent sporting events.
The city already hosts multiple NCAA conference basketball tournaments every March. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates as much as $20 million in non-gaming economic impact from those events.
Hurry up and wait in Vegas
Don’t expect Las Vegas to enter the championship arena anytime soon though. The NCAA awards sites for title games many years in advance.
The earliest Las Vegas could welcome the CFP final is 2025. Nevada will wait even longer to host a Final Four, as college basketball’s ultimate event is spoken for through 2027.
Las Vegas easily meets the minimum requirements for hosting one of the NCAA’s top functions. A venue must hold at least 60,000 fans, and a minimum of 10,000 full-service hotel rooms must exist within “reasonable proximity to the competition venue.”
The new Raiders stadium located across the interstate from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas can meet both regulations.
Early-round March Madness games might not be targeted by Las Vegas, however. The first four days of the tournament already rank among the most profitable for the region. March Madness betting drew nearly a half-billion dollars in handle this year.
It’s not just Nevada, of course
Nevada’s frustration did not exist in a vacuum. New Jersey and other states eyeing sports betting through the past decade would love to host as well.
Seven other states currently operate sports betting operations:
They would have been at risk of losing future championships based on the outdated policy, as would potential legal sports betting states Iowa, Indiana, Montana, and Tennessee. It also includes Washington, D.C.
The NCAA still publicly advocates for federal sports betting legislation despite its course correction on championships.