Let Them Place Bets

Gavin Range garange@ursinus.edu

“Gambling is not a vice; it is a expression of our humanness. We gamble. Some do it at the gaming table; some do not. You play, you win, you play, you lose. You play.” – Jeanette Winterson, The Passion.

Across America, college athletes are banned from participating in any form of betting on sporting events at both the college and professional level. Sports are one of, if not the, largest pieces of culture the world over. Every week, fans travel to or tune into their favorite team’s competition. Last year, Americans bet a combined $57.2 billion on sports, and of that, the sportsbooks only earned $4 billion of that money. Student-athletes have been cut off from a chance to make money, relax, and play games with their friends, so why not let them bet? Change the guidelines, making it so they can bet, just not on their own divisions.

I want to emphasize the end of that sentence, “not on their own divisions.” The NCAA Guidelines state that no athlete may bet on any athletic event regardless of division or level of play. Student-athletes are not even allowed to have a Fantasy Football League. Why? College athletics have very little overlap across divisions. You will not be seeing Ursinus College playing the University of Alabama anytime soon, so why not let the students bet on them? You will not see Alabama playing against the Eagles, so why not let their players place a wager on how many touchdowns Jalen Hurts will have? Why can’t a student athlete place a few bucks on the color of Gatorade at the Super Bowl?

Across divisions and levels, student athletes have no direct means of influ- encing other players, so let them wager. Beyond that college students and by extension student-athletes are, outside of unique circumstances, legal adults. Legal adults who are allowed to take risks, take on massive amounts of debt for education, are tied to the full effects of any crime, yet are not mentally or emotionally mature enough to bet on March Madness? I don’t believe that.

Now I know there are many arguments for this ban. That it takes away from the “purity” of organized athletics, that it can lead to corruption in the players ranks, or that players could be taken advantage of. Speaking from experience, unless an organization is lackadaisical or just outright incompetent, they are eagle-eyed in their attention to their individual players. Players are kept accountable and protected by the staff and players they have surrounding them. Let them bet. Let them make a March Madness bracket, let them bet on the color of the Gatorade at the Super Bowl, and especially, let them place $5 on a Fantasy Football League with their friends.