Since taking on the role of president of the NCAA earlier this year, former Massachusetts Gov.expressed deep concern about the impact of legal gambling on college athletes and the integrity of amateur sports. He specifically highlighted worries about “prop bets,” a form of wagering linked to specific player plays that is difficult to trace.
Baker stated that he is particularly worried about proposition bets and believes they should not be allowed in college sports. At least eight states currently permit this type of wager, including Kansas, Nevada, and Ohio.
“I think prop betting, in some respects, is one of the parts I worry about the most,” Baker said.
Baker outlined his concerns in an extensive interview with CBS News regarding the significant impact of legalized gambling on college athletics. While Baker supported legalizing some sports wagers during his time as governor of Massachusetts, he opposed allowing betting on college athletics.
The sports gaming industry has rapidly become a financial powerhouse, with $93 billion wagered on sports in 2022 alone. This year, more than $15 billion was wagered on NCAA March Madness.
Given his background as a former center for Harvard University’s basketball team, Baker emphasized his concern about the pressure on college students when they witness friends and classmates risking significant amounts of money on their performance.
He particularly highlighted the potential risks associated with prop bets, noting that they are unrelated to the overall outcome of the game and could easily go undetected. Even a malicious wager on a player’s missed shot could fly under the radar.
Baker also expressed concerns about the potential for student-athletes to unwittingly share insider information. He fears that friends and classmates could coerce a player into compromising their position.
For instance, Baker imagined a scenario where someone might approach a player and ask them to intentionally miss their first couple of free throws, under the guise that it wouldn’t affect the game’s outcome but would personally benefit the requester.
Baker’s hope is for states to collaborate with the NCAA in passing legislation to prohibit prop bets on collegiate sporting events and restrict certain activities involving student-athletes. He mentioned that the NCAA has been in talks with gaming firms to garner support for legislation establishing a “prohibited bettors list” comprising individuals with a history of harassing coaches or players. Such legislation would help prevent the need for 24/7 police protection for those involved in college sports during NCAA championship events, which Baker revealed was necessary last spring.
Given the intense pressure and monetary interests surrounding college sports, many experts believe it’s a matter of when, not if, the next major scandal will occur.
According to Baker and his team, “The challenge for us is going to be to do everything we can to educate student athletes and schools so that people understand what they need to do to stay out of trouble,” he said. “And just as importantly, if they do engage in some of this activity, it’s gonna get discovered and it’s gonna get discovered quickly.”