BU president says legalized sports gambling means less chance for corruption

May 15–PEORIA — The Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that paves the way for legalized sports gambling will lessen the chance of corruption in college sports, predicted Bradley University President Gary Roberts, recognized nationally as a sports law expert.

“With modern technology, having betting being done legally and plugged into a monitored system, if you were going to have any kind of game-fixing going on, you could probably detect it pretty quickly,” Roberts said. “The risk of match-fixing, point-shaving and getting to the players and coaches is more likely if the betting is allowed to continue below board.”

The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports betting outside Nevada.

Five states — New Jersey, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Mississippi — have already enacted legislation to legalize sports wagering.

Illinois is among 13 other states that have introduced bills to legalize sports betting. In Illinois’ case, the proposed legislation, called the Sports Wagering Act, stipulates that bets must be placed at a licensed gambling facility (under the Riverboat Gambling Act) or over the Internet through an interactive sports wagering platform.

Roberts said that Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro circulated a petition among presidents of NCAA Division I university presidents in Illinois, urging the Legislature to exempt the state’s college sports from any potential law that legalizes sports betting.

“I wasn’t willing to sign it because I disagreed with it,” Roberts said. “College sports is less likely to be corrupted if the betting is done legally.”

Josh Whitman, the University of Illinois’ director of athletics, wasn’t as sure as Roberts about the positive impact of the decision.

“Our first concern and priority will always be maintaining the integrity of our games and protecting our student-athletes and staff from undue influence,” Whitman said in a statement. “For now, we will continue to monitor the situation and, at the appropriate time, will work with the NCAA, the Big Ten and the state government to develop needed policies and protections for what will undoubtedly bring dramatic change to the national professional and collegiate sports landscape.”

With less than three weeks left in the Illinois legislative session, getting legislation in place — with language agreeable to all the state’s competing gaming interests — would be a difficult climb.

“I don’t think Illinois is quite ready,” said Steve Brubaker, a lobbyist for the horse racing industry.

Brubaker said he expects the issue to be hashed out over the summer, with something perhaps ready for the fall veto session, but more likely in January.

Gov. Bruce Rauner said he would be open to expanding gaming to communities that want it.

“I personally don’t gamble. I think that gambling is something that takes money away from folks who can least afford to lose their money,” Rauner said. “That said, people like to gamble; it’s here. I believe in local control and I personally will support those communities that would like to see gaming expanded.”

JB Pritzker, Rauner’s Democratic general election opponent, said sports betting is “worthy of looking at.”

“We certainly need to look for revenue in the state and if sports betting might allow us to do that, we should look closely at that,” Pritzker said.

Among major professional sports leagues, the NCAA, NFL and NHL have consistently opposed the sports wagering legalization case brought by the state of New Jersey, while the NBA and Major-League Baseball have been more open to accommodating change.

Boyd Gaming, the parent company of the Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino in East Peoria, viewed the Supreme Court decision as a growth opportunity for its 24 gaming properties in seven states.

“Whether we ultimately offer sports betting in specific states will depend on the rules and tax rates set forth by each state,” said Boyd Gaming President and CEO Keith Smith. “It is still too early to say which specific opportunities we will pursue. But we are monitoring the situation very closely and are prepared to act quickly as individual states move forward with legislation.”

A call to Tim Carey, general manager of Hawthorne Race Course, which manages off-track betting facilities in Peoria and Normal, was not immediately returned.

Roberts said the court’s decision was expected in sports law circles.

“It would have been a big surprise if they had ruled the other way,” Roberts said. “It’s potentially a significant ruling, but I don’t think we know yet how it will impact anything. It will definitely produce a revenue stream at the pro level. I don’t think we know for sure yet at the college level.

“I think the NCAA and colleges will be a little more reluctant to quickly jump into bed with the gaming houses than professional sports. But I think it will evolve. If colleges think they can make an extra buck, they’ll figure out what kind of relationships they can have with the gaming houses. I’ll bet 20 years from now, it will be significant.”

The Bradley president said the verdict is another large shift in a sea change of American attitudes toward gambling in recent decades.

“We’ve been obsessed with sports gambling in this country since the Black Sox scandal in 1919,” he said. “That obsession has been gradually eroding over time. Now we’re here where the federal law has been struck down. And the door is open.”

This article provided by NewsEdge.