NCAA president aiming to ban all college prop bets

Charlie Baker calls for hardline stance

NCAA president Charlie Baker announced on Wednesday that the college sports organization is aiming to ban all prop betting on college sports markets that are currently available on North American sportsbooks, including many Ontario sportsbooks.

“Sports betting issues are on the rise across the country, with prop bets continuing to threaten the integrity of competition and leading to student-athletes and professional athletes getting harassed,” Baker said in a statement posted to social media. “The NCAA has been working with states to deal with these threats and many are responding by banning college prop bets.”

Prop bets are wagers that are placed on an individual player’s performance, such as how many points they will score, how many three-pointers or touchdowns they will score, and other more specific markets such as how many yards a football player racks up in a game, how many rebounds or assists a college basketball player records, and numerous more markets.

Some U.S. states such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have never allowed wagering on college player props, while Maryland, Ohio, and Vermont have all banned that category of bets already in 2024. Many other states including Arizona and Colorado allow college prop betting but with limitations in place, while four states do not limit college sports betting.

Baker has voiced his opposition to prop bets being allowed on college sports numerous times in recent months, culminating in his March 27 statement.

“The NCAA is drawing the line on sports betting,” Baker added. “This week, we will be contacting officials across the country in states that still allow these bets and ask them to join Ohio, Vermont, and Maryland and many others and remove college prop bets from all betting markets.”

What are the concerns?

Prop bets are common and very popular among sports bettors but Baker said the NCAA hopes to institute a country-wide ban on college player prop bets to “protect student-athletes and to protect the integrity of the game.”

The crux of his argument against offering them on college sports is that they can put student-athletes and college sports in general at risk. A particular concern is the pressure Baker says they put on college athletes, and the NCAA president also believes there’s a risk of players being harassed if they don’t reach their player props.

Some U.S. states have passed legislation to ban bettors in their state if they’re caught harassing players, coaches, or officials either in-person or virtually. Whereas professional athletes are paid for their sports work and some would argue should accept criticism that comes their way, unpaid young college athletes receiving negative feedback because bets have gone awry is a different matter.

There’s also the potential issue of integrity, Baker says.

The high-pressure and often high-stakes climate of sports betting could theoretically lead to athletes, whether through choice or through pressure, intentionally altering their game in line with bets that have been placed. As prop bets’ outcomes often don’t directly affect the overall result or score of a game, irregularities can theoretically go undiscovered.

What’s the context here?

“Issues across the country these last several days show there is more work to be done,” said Baker in his statement and, when it comes to the issue of athletes adjusting their performances for the purposes of betting, there are real-world examples. Right now, for example, the Temple men’s basketball team is being investigated for suspicious betting activity regarding some of its games, while in the past, numerous Iowa and Iowa State players were suspended for gambling, including several for betting on their own team.

The timing of Baker’s statement is also significant, coming in the midst of the March Madness basketball tournaments, one of the biggest times of the year for sports betting.

The American Gaming Association estimated last week that Americans will legally wager $2.72 billion USD ($3.69 billion CAD) on March Madness this year. While a similar Canadian estimate has not been given, March Madness is available on the wide range of legal sportsbook options in the Ontario regulated market. After last year’s March Madness tournaments, the NCAA estimated via a survey that 58% of 18- to 22-year-olds are gambling.

On the major-league front, this week has been dominated by headlines around the high-profile illegal gambling investigation surrounding MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani, and the NBA announced this week that the league is investigating irregularities involving prop bets for Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter.

For two Raptors fixtures against the LA Clippers and Sacramento Kings earlier this year, DraftKings — one of the NBA’s betting sponsors — reported that individual prop bets on Porter’s performance were the top money-makers for sportsbook operators. In both games, Porter left the court early on due to injury and illness and hit the under on the prop.

Sportsnet reports that the NBA’s investigation centres on the possibility that he may have manipulated his own on-court performances for the benefit of high-stakes bettors.

Where does Ontario stand on college prop betting?

Currently, the province of Ontario is one of the North American jurisdictions that allow college prop wagering with no limitations imposed.

Betting on college sports player props in the province is legal under the Alcohol and Gaming Commission‘s regulations and it is at the discretion of operators what is offered. The vast majority offer a range of player props, including the likes of DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, bet365, theScore Bet, and numerous more.

The AGCO confirmed in an email to Canadian Gaming Business that its standards include comprehensive requirements that Ontario operators must meet to ensure the fairness and integrity of all betting products they offer, encompassing all bet types across all sports allowed within the Ontario regulated sports betting market, which includes NCAA sports.

“The AGCO continues to monitor all developments within the sports betting community and remains committed to engagement with all stakeholders,” added the emailed statement.

You might also like