How big an impact is regulated sports betting having on college athletes? According to UCLA gambling studies professor Dr. Timothy Fong, student athletes are incredibly anxious about the potential for harassment from sports bettors. Now Dr. Fong, and others, are making certain that those student athletes have the mental tools they need to survive in a high pressure world where the expectations are set by the daily line.
Speaking at the recent UNLV Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, held at UNLV, Dr. Fong said his university tries to identify trouble before it starts, while treating student-athletes with compassion.
“Our focus inside our UCLA program is maximizing health and wellness not punishing the behavior of the athlete caught gambling. They do not just immediately get suspended. The athlete has a positive urine drug test for cannabis above the level of expectation, we don’t just put them on the bench. We assess them, we treat them, and we get them to continue to be able to train and not sent home,” he said.
Dr. Fong is also trying to prepare athletes to handle sports betting-related harassment, something previous generations of players never worried about, “Well, this is the first time where I’m actually worried about my performance because I’m worried about the harassment online that’s affecting sports performance. Suddenly, sports betting becomes a training issue. Just like cardio, strength training, sleep, nutrition, it becomes embedded as part of the athlete’s experience.”
The intersection between college sports and regulated sports is turning into a hot button issue for both universities and gaming operators. Between athlete harassment and betting-related scandals, this is an issue that is not going to go away anytime soon.