College sports wagers get face time on Capitol Hill


As more states have rolled out legalized sports gambling to their residents, several have implemented laws that greatly restrict wagers on college games. Some states have completely banned the activity, while others have allowed it, provided no in-state team is involved in the target of the bet. The issue is how to protect the integrity of the game, as well as athletes, and the federal government is going to table a discussion on the issues starting this week. According to a report by ESPN, a hearing will be held this Wednesday by the Senate Judicial Committee that might possibly pave the way for legalized sports gambling on a nationwide level.

“Protecting the Integrity of College Athletics” is primarily designed to explore ways to address intellectual property rights centered on the athletes’ promotion of their name, image and likeness (NIL). However, also included in the hearing will be a discussion on sports gambling, which could be the catalyst for opening the market across the entire country. A bill introduced last year to legalize sports gambling hadn’t found much support, but the coronavirus situation is definitely causing lawmakers to remove the blinders.

For the longest time, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) had strict policies against college athletes selling themselves for branding purposes and would not only punish the players, but the schools, as well. This changed last year after California stood up to the organization, implementing the “Pay to Play” law, which gave athletes in the state the legal right to seek endorsements and be paid for their talents.

The NCAA wasn’t happy with the law at first and threatened to challenge it in court. However, after other states followed suit, it backed down and agreed to lighten up. That helped paved the way for the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing at the beginning of this month to discuss federal regulations for how student-athletes could sign endorsement deals, and this week’s hearing will continue to push the issue forward.

At least one politician is certainly not pleased with the turn of events. Senator Lindsey Graham has tried to block college sports gambling across the country through federal bills that would even prohibit the wagers in legal states like Nevada. However, he has, so far, been unsuccessful in his attempts. Unfortunately, Graham is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee that will discuss the issue this week, and it’s very likely that his ire at not getting his way before will spill over into the new conversations.

Fortunately, Graham is now in the minority of people who don’t want to see legalized sports gambling, so he might have to swallow his pride. The coronavirus has cost states to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through increased unemployment and the absence of commercial activity. Those states that have already had the foresight to legalize online gaming and sportsbooks have been able to receive some type of financial assistance, and are in a better shape to recover than their non-gaming counterparts.