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The Real March Madness: Players Harassed by Bettors

Sports betting-related harassment of college athletes surged during the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, aka March Madness, according to NCAA Managing Director Mark Hicks. Speaking at the recent SBC Summit North America Player Protection Symposium, Hicks said his organization clocked 2,000 reports of players getting harassed by bettors that were serious enough to be turned over to law enforcement.

The scope of player harassment in recent months is absolutely staggering, as Hicks pointed out during his address. All told, there were 50,000 incidents of harassment reported, with about 4,000 cited as being directly related to sports betting. About half of those were reported to law enforcement.

Hicks is realistic about the world we live in, but he points out that student-athletes are very different from professional athletes, not matter how it may seem to gamblers. “Sports betting’s here, you have to embrace it. We’re not the NFL. We’re not Major League Baseball or the NBA. We’re half a million student-athletes,” he said in comments reported on SBC Americas.

The solution to player harassment, Hicks pointed out, is not necessarily banning player props outright, a move that would likely benefit unregulated operators. “I fully get there is now a risk that some of these bets go to the unregulated market. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot.I don’t thin k it has to be mutually exclusive.”

By establishing relationships with operators, and making judicious use of integrity monitoring, Hicks thinks that player props can exist without endangering the actual players. Though he made some good points, a recent wave of laws banning player prop bets at the college level are likely to make those types of bets a rarity in the regulated US market in the very near future.