Since he took over as president of the NCAA earlier this year, former Massachusetts Gov. says he has grown deeply worried about the impact legal gambling is having on college athletes and the integrity of amateur sports — and he has acute concerns about a hard-to-trace form of wagering known as “prop bets.”
Baker said proposition bets, which allow gamblers to place a wager on an individual play linked to a specific player, present a special risk that should not be allowed in college sports. At least eight states permit this type of wager, including Kansas, Nevada and Ohio.
“I think prop betting in some respects is one of the parts I worry about the most.”
Baker discussed his concerns during a lengthy interview with CBS News about the tectonic impact legalized gambling is having on college athletics. The NCAA was one of the chief opponents whenfive years ago. And while Baker supported legalizing some sports wagers as Massachusetts governor, he opposed allowing betting on college athletics.
Sports gaming has quickly turned into a financial behemoth, with $93 billion wagered on sports in 2022. This year, gamblers wagered more than $15 billion on NCAA March Madness.
A former center for Harvard University’s basketball team, Baker said he was worried about the pressure created when college student see friends and classmates risking large amounts of money on their performance.
This is especially true when it comes to prop bets, he said, because they have no connection to the overall outcome of the game, so a malicious wager on something like a player’s missed shot can easily fly under the radar.
Baker said he also worries about the potential for student athletes to be coaxed into unintentionally sharing insider information. He said he fears it will be friends and classmates on campus, finding themselves in a problematic situation, who could try and compromise a player.
Baker imagined aloud how a pitch might sound: “What I’d really appreciate is if you could just miss your first couple of free throws this week — it won’t affect the outcome of the game, but it would really help me…”
Baker said his wish is for states to work with the NCAA to pass legislation banning prop bets on collegiate sporting events and student-athletes.
The NCAA, he said, has has been communicating with gaming firms to seek support for legislation that would create a “prohibited bettors list” of those who have a history of harassing coaches or players. Legislation like this would help prevent those involved in college sports from needing to be being put under 24/7 police guard while at an NCAA championship event —something Baker told us the NCAA had to do just last spring.
With all of the pressure and money surrounding college sports, many experts told us the next big scandal is a “when,” not an “if.”
As for Charlie Baker and his team, “The challenge for us is going to be to do everything we can to educate student athletes and schools, so that people get a sense about what they need to do to stay out of trouble,” he said. “And just as importantly, that if they do engage in some of this activity, it’s gonna get discovered and it’s gonna get discovered quickly.”