NCAA pushing for federal sport betting legislation

The NCAA's search for best approaches to the expanding legal sports betting market in the U.S. is focused on Washington, where two prominent senators are taking up the cause.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) are in the early stages of collaborating on federal sports betting legislation, sources told ESPN. The legislation is expected to be similar to the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act that was introduced in December by Schumer and since-retired senator Orrin Hatch, but never gained momentum. There is no timeline for the introduction for Schumer and Romney's bill.

The NCAA would prefer that a prohibition on betting on collegiate sports be included in federal legislation, but there are legal questions about any such carve-out.

"We are absolutely supportive of federal regulation," NCAA vice president of hearing operations Naima Stevenson Starks, a point person on sports betting, told ESPN. "It's fairly daunting to think that every state would have a different set of regulations. Having some minimum standards, we are very supportive of and have been an active proponent of."

Since a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018, legal sportsbooks have begun operating in 13 states. Several additional states have passed sports betting legislation. No state has banned wagering on collegiate sports, although New Jersey, for example, does not allow betting on games involving in-state colleges like Rutgers and Seton Hall.

Ahead of the Supreme Court decision, NCAA president Mark Emmert suggested a prohibition on betting on collegiate sports be included in any federal legislation. Starks, though, says any such carve-out would likely be legally challenged unless all states were prohibited from taking bets on college sports, including states already doing so.

"The Supreme Court, in its decision, has made it somewhat challenging for a complete carve-out on college athletics to not be something that would be legally challenged at the end of the day," Starks said. "Certainly, if there were the ability to have some kind of carve-out on college athletics altogether, that would be something that I know most would be supportive of. Whether or not that would be something that the federal legislation that's being proposed would do, given that states are already doing it, I think that might be a challenge for the bill potentially get passed, which is the ultimate goal."

The bill introduced by Schumer and Hatch last year did not include a prohibition on betting on college sports.

In the meantime, the NCAA has ramped up educational efforts for student-athletes and referees, who are now dealing with a new landscape, where a legal sportsbook may be operating just down the street from campuses and arenas. Student-athletes have received updated educational materials and referees were given access to an instructional video on best approaches to dealing with sports betting issues. The NCAA also has instituted enhanced background checks for officials.

The NCAA has entered into a formal partnership with an international company to monitor the betting markets domestically and internationally, and an ad hoc committee on sports wagering has been created by the NCAA board of governors.

In August, the sports wagering committee determined that player availability reporting at this time "would not advance student-athlete well-being nor protect the integrity of competition."