Since he took over as president of the NCAA earlier this year, former Massachusetts Gov. says he has become deeply concerned about the impact legal gambling is having on college athletes and the integrity of amateur sports — and he has acute concerns about a hard-to-trace form of betting known as “prop bets.”
Baker said proposition betting, which allows players to bet on an individual game tied to a specific player, poses a particular risk that should not be allowed in college sports. At least eight states allow this type of betting, including Kansas, Nevada and Ohio.
“I think in some respects prop betting is one of the parts I worry about the most.”
Baker discussed his concerns during a lengthy interview with CBS News about the tectonic impact legalized gambling is having on college athletics. The NCAA was one of the main opponents thenfive years ago. And while Baker supported legalizing some sports betting as Massachusetts governor, he opposed allowing betting on college athletics.
Sports betting has quickly become a financial giant, with $93 billion wagered on sports by 2022. This year, gamblers bet more than $15 billion on NCAA March Madness.
A former center for Harvard University’s basketball team, Baker said he was concerned about the pressure that occurs when college students see friends and classmates risking large amounts of money on their performance.
This is especially true when it comes to prop bets, he said, because they have no connection to the overall outcome of the game, so a malicious bet on something like a player’s missed shot can easily fly under the radar.
Baker said he also worries about the potential for student athletes to be lured into inadvertently sharing inside information. He said he fears it will be friends and classmates on campus who find themselves in a problematic situation who might try to compromise a player.
Baker imagined out loud what a pitch might sound like: “What I would really appreciate is if you could just miss your first few free throws this week — it won’t affect the outcome of the game, but it would really help me …”
Baker said his desire is for states to work with the NCAA to pass legislation banning prop betting on collegiate sporting events and student-athletes.
The NCAA, he said, has been communicating with gaming companies to seek support for legislation that would create a “banned bettor list” of those who have previously harassed coaches or players. Legislation like this would help prevent those involved in college sports from being put under 24/7 police surveillance while at an NCAA championship event — something Baker told us the NCAA needed to do last spring.
With all the pressure and money surrounding college sports, many experts told us the next big scandal is a “when,” not an “if.”
As for Charlie Baker and his team, “the challenge for us is going to be doing everything we can to educate student athletes and schools so that people get a sense of what they need to do to stay out of trouble,” he said . “And just as importantly, if they engage in any of this activity, it will be detected, and it will be detected quickly.”