In the wake of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, the NCAA announced Thursday that it has temporarily suspended its prohibition on championship events being played in states that allow sports betting. In its announcement, the organization cited a need for “championship location continuity.” Roughly translated, that means it had no choice.
Five states — New Jersey, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware — already had passed laws legalizing sports gambling before the Supreme Court ruled that the de facto federal prohibition was unconstitutional, and those states likely will start accepting wagers in the near future. Pennsylvania alone is scheduled to host 12 NCAA Division I championship events between now and 2022, including the men’s basketball tournament, the men’s lacrosse final four and championship game, and the Frozen Four men’s hockey semifinals and final, high-profile events that attract an influx of out-of-town visitors — and their spending money. Moving those events because the host state decides to offer a now-legal activity would be a horrible look for the NCAA, which moved nine events out of New Jersey in 2012 after the state pushed ahead in its pursuit of sports betting.
Other states, many of them already awarded NCAA championship events, have signaled plans to explore sports gambling as well.
In its most recent round of championship-event distribution in April 2017, the NCAA awarded New Jersey just two minor events: the 2019 Division III men’s volleyball championship and the 2020 Division III field hockey championship.
The NCAA added that it may make this temporary revision a permanent feature, which would open up the possibility of holding championship events in Las Vegas, which has long offered legal sports gambling. With championship events set in stone until 2022, however, the next round of distribution will not take place for a number of years.
The NCAA also announced Thursday that it supports a federal framework for legalized sports gambling rather than a state-by-state approach, which is what the Supreme Court allowed for in its ruling Monday.
“Our highest priorities in any conversation about sports wagering are maintaining the integrity of competition and student-athlete well-being,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the statement. “Sports wagering can adversely impact student-athletes and undermine the games they play. We are committed to ensuring that laws and regulations promote a safe and fair environment for the nearly half a million students who play college athletics. While we recognize the critical role of state governments, strong federal standards are necessary to safeguard the integrity of college sports and the athletes who play these games at all levels.”
NCAA athletes and team employees are still prohibited from betting on sports, though “the NCAA membership may reconsider appropriate consequences for those who legally bet on sports,” the organization said.
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