NU’s unique Sports Wagering situation

By: Kevin McDonnell

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.- The month of March is in it’s early stages and with its entrance comes one of the largest events in American sports: March Madness. For those who do not know, March Madness is when all the Division I NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Men’s Basketball teams play for the championship from all across the United States with two weeks of games featuring 68 teams. College students and sports fans alike will jump at the opportunity to fill out tournament brackets eager to try and predict the suspected winners. In 2017, March Madness according to Forbes magazine brought in a staggering $1.285 billion in ad revenue. However, accompanying all these games will be what follows most live sporting events – gambling. 

As collegiate athletics have become increasingly popular, the NCAA has grappled with what the guidelines should be for college campuses and communities in regard to Sports Wagering. That conversation has been propelled to the forefront with the recent changes in federal law that has allowed states to adopt their own policies to Sports Wagering. The NCAA’s policy is “Don’t Bet On It,” which has banned college athletic departments and its affiliated members from wagering on their own college teams.

New York State has adopted a policy that has bans its residents from betting on its local teams, but NU is in a different situation to many other American universities in both its proximity to Canada and the existence of its campus in Vaughn, Ontario (just outside of Toronto), that would allow students and university members access to betting on its teams. I met with Simon Gray, the Director of Athletics to discuss what Sports Wagering could mean for our community.

Gray mentioned how the NCAA has been proactive in providing its personnel with resources and education about the best practices. The university is slated to decide whether they along with other campuses will initiate a ban on Sports Wagering. Mr. Gray commented on the possibility of such a policy.

“What we at NU are really proud of is our focus on the individual we feel a responsibility to educate our students as they are attaining their degree as well as their growth into adulthood,” Gray said. “Specifically, having a policy that would restrict our constituents from betting on NU’s teams. This helps us to retain a sense of unity for ourselves while also retaining the integrity of our teams.”

It should be noted that in the case of NU’s Athletic Department, personnel, and athletes, they have been barred from wagering on any collegiate games regardless of campus location. Therefore, the proposed policy refers to the much larger campus community and the implications Sports Wagering could have on anything from general team morale to the overall campus culture.

There is no doubt that Sports Wagering will continue to be an issue not only for collegiate sports, but for professional sports as well, as technology provides greater access to its services. With this, universities and government agencies will have to grapple with the issues of personal freedom and the possible addictive nature of Sports Wagering. NU seems particularly situated to take that issue on.

Photo by: Dan Richeal

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