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College betting scandals shine light on campus wagering

Sports betting has come to the forefront of the conversation surrounding college athletics.
College betting scandals shine light on campus wagering
Posted at 4:24 PM, May 10, 2023

With a smartphone and a few bucks, it's never been easier to gamble on sports. Commercials for betting apps and websites offer the promise of betting on any game, any time.

A 2018 Supreme Court decision paved the way for legal sports betting, which is now allowed in 37 states and Washington D.C., according to the American Gaming Association. But it's gambling in the college sports world that is causing new concern.

"We've really normalized the culture of gambling as part of the college athletic experience both in terms of those people who are athletes, as well as those people who are spectators and supporters of athletics," says Michelle Malkin, an assistant professor at East Carolina University who studies problem gambling.

In just the last two weeks college betting scandals have rocked the two biggest universities in Iowa. Iowa state says 15 student athletes were involved in sports gambling violations. The University of Iowa said a new sports wagering investigation involves more than 100 people, including 26 current athletes from baseball, football, basketball, track and field and wrestling.

"We have alerted the NCAA of the potential violations and we have hired outside counsel to assist in the investigative process," the school said in a statement.

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Last week the University of Alabama fired baseball coach Brad Bohannon after reports of suspicious bets involving his team. Bohannon hasn't commented.

The NCAA bans athletes and coaches from betting on games. But with the temptation of easy money, Malkin says her research shows the number of student athletes placing bets in the last year is as high as 40%.

"All these promises of free bets and match bets makes it really attractive," Malkin tells Scripps News. "If they get an early win, they honestly believe that it's really possible to get another win. And so they'll just keep betting with that hope that the next big win is going to come."

The American Gaming Association recently banned sports books from partnering with schools, but for now campus wagering isn't going anywhere.

"Pandora's Box is open," said Joe Cobbs, a professor of sports business at the Haile College of Business at Northern Kentucky University.

Cobbs says the threat of getting benched might make student athletes reconsider placing that bet.

"With some of these stories being publicized, players being suspended, coaches being fired, that might get some attention that will hopefully deter some people or make some people think twice before they do it," Cobbs said.

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