At US Senate Hearing, Pitt AD Pleads for Ban on College Sports Wagering

Posted on July 22, 2020 - Last Updated on August 31, 2020

Heather Lyke, director of athletics at the University of Pittsburgh, testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, telling them that state-by-state legislation regarding sports wagering has led to unwieldy regulations without uniformity over the past two years.

The Supreme Court in 2018 struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PAPSA), a piece of legislation pushed by former Sen. Bill Bradley and meant to protect the integrity of professional and college sports.

And that inadvertently led to the creation of a huge illegal gambling market, Bill Miller Jr., president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), also testified.

Wagering on college sports “corrosive,” amplified by social media

Lyke told the committee that the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), of which Pitt is a member, wants Congress to ban gambling on college sports while acknowledging that betting on professional sports is “here to stay.”

Allowing wagering on college sports, said Lyke, will have a “corrosive and detrimental impact.”

She added:

“Gambling creates pressures and temptations that should not exist.”

Lyke testified that pressure is intensified by social media, which can convey threats.

She also said it is impossible to police the flow of information about student-athletes.

Prop bets create special problems

Students are particularly vulnerable to manipulation via prop bets, she said. Those are wagers on individual player performance or the discrete actions of a single player. She said prop bets can most easily tarnish college sports’ integrity.

Lyke also pointed out that many states that allow wagering on college games also outlaw betting on in-state college teams. That shows a tacit acknowledgment of the risks, in Lyke’s estimation.

She concluded:

“While sports wagering might create revenue opportunities for states, it will ultimately undermine the integrity of intercollegiate sports and the academic, personal and social experiences of students and student-athletes at our institutions.”

Legalization supports revenue and integrity, AGA testifies

Miller said in his testimony that outlawing gambling “enabled a massive illegal sports betting market that the AGA estimated to be in excess of $150 billion dollars annually.”

He also told lawmakers:

“We believe the shared goal of policymakers and other stakeholders should be to seize this opportunity to bring betting activity into a legal market, under state and tribal regulatory oversight, which will enhance transparency, consumer protections and game and bet integrity, while supporting jobs and generating tax revenue.”

Miller also pointed to the revenue, saying:

“Since May 2018, bettors have legally wagered nearly $22 billion on sports nationwide, generating more than $195 million in tax revenue to state and local governments.”

AGA believes marketing of college wagering needs some curbs

He did not directly address wagering on college sports, except when it comes to marketing.

Miller said the AGA marketing code states:

“Sports wagering should not be promoted or advertised in college or university-owned news assets (e.g., school newspapers, radio or television broadcasts, etc.) or advertised on college or university campuses.”

Some legislation is likely for consideration

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, chaired the hearing.

Several states are adding gambling in the coming months. Graham said he believes federal legislation is needed.

To date, 22 states and the District of Columbia have allowed some form of wagering on sports.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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