NCAA Continues to Get Lambasted for Gambling Hypocrisies

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

The NCAA doesn't like gambling.  We know that.  Yet in recent days the NCAA  has been called out for its apparent softened stance on the activity.

Case in point:  college basketball games throughout the NCAA Tournament had their lines posted in many major newspapers across the country.

USA Today last week featured a riveting report on how the NCAA has been pushing the envelope when it comes to sports marketing, and more specifically gambling.

The NCAA has long sought to distance itself and schools from gambling interests. That line is blurring, however, as legalized gambling spreads and more schools are open to gaming advertising.

Five schools in the Pacific-10 Conference - Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State - accept casino ads that show up in stadium and arena signage or game programs, according to league spokesman Jim Muldoon.

New Mexico sealed a five-year, $2.5 million deal last year that makes the Route 66 Casino Hotel, operated by the Laguna Pueblo Native American tribe, its "exclusive gaming sponsor."

San Diego State announced it will change the name of basketball's Cox Arena to Viejas Arena, aligning the university with the Kumeyaay Indian tribe, whose 1,600-acre reservation to the east includes a casino.

While the NCAA won't accept advertising from "organizations or companies primarily involved in gambling or gaming businessactivities," it hasn't barred its schools from doing so.

Rachel Newman Baker, NCAA director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities, nonetheless was on record as discouraging institutions' partnerships with "gambling interests" as recently as two years ago.

The NCAA has softened that stance. "We continue to be stridently opposed to any type of sports wagering," spokesman Erik Christianson says via e-mail.

"But we have come to understand that there are differing perspectives within the membership about commercial activities, including the appropriateness of accepting casino advertising. What some institutions may see as acceptable, others may not."

John L. Smith of the Las Vegas Review Journal had this to say on Wednesday regarding the blurred line between sports betting and the NCAA:

"Michigan State was a 71/2-point underdog.

"I knew this because the betting line was printed in the newspaper. It proliferated on the Internet. It was slipped into TV broadcasts from the local sports report to ESPN.

"By the time the nation's final two teams met to complete March Madness -- forget the fact we're a week into April -- every man, woman, child, and family pet with any interest in the outcome could easily learn the point spread, identify the favorite, and place a wager on the game. Given the popularity of the event, I wouldn't be surprised to learn the betting line was printed on the back of Wheaties boxes and inside church newsletters.

"Some critics call it a scourge, other folks shrug and say it's a part of American life, but the simple fact is that sports gambling is inseparable from sports itself."

And Smith is right.  Some states, suffering from economic woes, have sought to embrace legalized sports betting as a means of developing newfound revenue streams.

Two weeks ago New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, with the help of the trade organization, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to allow sports betting in all 50 states.

The Union County Democrat said he feels the law is unconstitutional because it treats four states differently than the rest of the country. In Lesniak's view, sports betting should be permitted not only in Atlantic City's casinos, but at the state's three ailing horse-racing tracks, at off-track betting locations and via the Internet.

The hypocrisy is everywhere, however.  If it's not the sports leagues applying pressure to stop sports betting in places such as New Jersey and Delaware, the Indian casinos have done the deed in states like Washington and California.

Christopher Costigan, Publisher


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