CRAWFORD | SEC preparing for legal sports gambling
ATLANTA (WDRB) – College sports headlines have been dominated all summer by corruption and gambling. The corruption coming in the form of an ongoing (and growing) FBI investigation into college basketball wrongdoing and the gambling in the form of reaction to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that clears the way for states to legalize sports wagering.
That has pushed college football into the background, a position it’s uncomfortable in holding. But those discussions have a direct effect on college football, as evidenced by the comments of Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey in opening the SEC Media Days extravaganza in the College Football Hall of Fame on Monday.
Sankey sees changes coming.
“I expect we will see in early August the NCAA Board adopt most, if not all, of the Rice Commission recommendations,” he said.
While those aren’t radical changes, more major change is on the way. College conferences already are thinking about what the legalization of gaming will mean, and what it will require of them. In fact, Sankey said, the SEC has been in those discussions for years.
“As we expect to see, in fact are seeing, the expanded presence of legalized sports gambling across the country,” Sankey said. “Understand that since 2011, members of the SEC staff have been in communication with and learning with those who work in legalized sports gambling. We've also been in contact over the last year with representatives from the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the PGA offices to monitor and learn from their efforts and to stay up-to-date on their legislative conversations.”
That includes thinking about what kind of analytics that legal betting on its games might require. He hinted that formalized injury reports might be something the league needs approval to provide, among other things.
“For us, the integrity of our games is of the utmost importance,” Sankey said. “. . . We have one opportunity to get it right. . . . Part of the positive step with legalized gambling is there's a lot more sunshine on what is happening. And one of the lessons is those involved in legalized gambling are the best at knowing what's happened. I think some of the state laws include expectations for communication around transparency. If there are oddities, I think that's one much those elements that we would encourage.”
As a result, Sankey said leagues will have to get together to subscribe to services that provide deep analytics on results as they relate to betting lines.
“I think there are two parts really to the question; monitoring what's happening at a state and national level from a policy standpoint,” he said. “That's the communication with other leagues both at the college and professional level and then the discussion of should we be in the habit of subscribing to a service that analyzes our games. Is there strange things that might happen around the line? We've not done that yet, but certainly a topic of conversation.”
The SEC, with Auburn, is among those leagues experiencing a program under scrutiny in the ongoing college basketball corruption case. Sankey said that underscores how vigilant leagues must be in all sports, but particularly football.
“The importance of integrity in college athletics is underscored by what has transpired in college basketball over the past 12 months,” he said. “Arrests, indictments, and eventual appointment of a special commission lead by the former United States Secretary of State resulted from an unhealthy culture and unacceptable actions by individuals. . . . Those of us associated with intercollegiate athletics, commissioners, presidents, chancellors, athletics directors, coaches, staff members, boosters and student-athletes (must) conduct ourselves with a level of integrity that properly presents the ideals and values of higher education.”
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