Over the past few months the NCAA, along with the four major pro-sports leagues, has been a vocal opponent of Delaware’s attempts to legalize per-game sports gambling in the State. They were among the group of sports leagues that petitioned a federal judge to issue an injunction to stop the state. Like the pro-sports leagues, the NCAA believes that allowing gambling in the state will damage the reputation of college athletics and increase the temptation for players to cheat.
When the federal judge denied their request for the injunction the NCAA retaliated by establishing a new policy that prevents college championships from being played in cities that allow per-game gambling. Finally, the NCAA is acting appropriately-though the championship denial will do nothing to prevent cheating and little to nothing to stop Delaware from pursuing gambling on sports as a revenue source for the state.
Could legalized, licensed sports gambling increase the likelihood that cheating will occur? Possibly, but it’s not likely. As multiple scandals involving college athletes cheating, or getting caught up in gambling show, just because an activity is illegal does not preclude people-even athletes, from engaging in it anyway.
Of course, even if cheating, gambling, drug use, or any other behavior the NCAA finds unacceptable suddenly rises in occurrence, even if it can be directly correlated with the legalization of gambling, it is not the responsibility of the court system to ensure the integrity of private organizations.
As an independent association, the NCAA, like all the pro-sports leagues, is free to create any rules it wants and penalize members for breaking them. In order to get the prestige that goes along with participating in a league, members should conduct their activities to the leagues standards. If member do not abide by the league’s rules the image and prestige of the league suffers. That is the fear with legalized gambling on sports.
Sports leagues contend that increased gambling on their game could make it more likely, or at least, make it seem more likely that players will get involved in plans to throw games. But as I wrote about last week, that problem is not for the American taxpayer, nor the American court system to remedy. It is up to the league to set up a framework to ensure that its members continue to operate within its standards. If they think banning championships in gambling states is the way to do this, so be it (no matter how unlikely to produce results that strategy is).