College sports gets ready to (quietly) cash in on sports betting
The rise of regulated sports betting in the United States has been great news for the gaming industry. After all, it’s a move they’ve been advocating for decades and it’s a great way to get people to walk through the doors of their local sportsbook and casino.
For professional sports leagues, especially the NCAA, however, regulated sports betting offers a moral conundrum. These days, NCAA officials seem to be asking themselves how they can profit on sports betting, without appearing to advocate for it. A great example of that new dynamic appeared earlier this week when the NCAA struck a deal with Genesis Sports, a subsidiary of BetGenius, to provide data and technology services.
If you’re thinking that this sounds like the NCAA making money off of the very thing they fought against for decades, you should ask NCAA President Mark Emmert. At the the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York he addressed that very issue saying, “We’re certainly not looking at from the NCAA’s point of view, ‘How do we monetize this great opportunity? But at the same time you have to recognize that for us, this is mostly about how do you maintain the integrity of the game? How do you fit this into the collegiate model of the game? How do you work with your media partners?”
The league’s obsession with “integrity” is based on the misguided notion that an increase in regulated sports betting will also increase instances of game-fixing and other forms of cheating in sports. Decades of regulated wagering in Nevada have never really borne out this theory, but the leagues stand by it anyways.
The NCAA, and the other professional sports leagues, have been pushing hard to get states to pay them an “integrity fee”, which is usually based on a percentage of the total money wagered, to help monitor for irregularities in sports betting to detect cheating. So far, no states have take the leagues up on their generous offer.