Anti-Gambling Efforts Broaden

By Staff

Coaching Management, 13.4, April 2005,

Armed with a survey confirming that a small number of college student-athletes have been asked to affect a game, provided inside information, or affected the outcome of a game because of gambling debts, the NCAA is strengthening its anti-wagering efforts. Special attention is being paid to Division II and III, which reported higher rates of gambling behavior than Division I.

So far, the highest profile educational effort was national Sports Wagering Awareness Day, held at the height of this past college football season. On Oct. 30, many head football coaches and their staffs wore NCAA "Don't Bet On It" wristbands during their games as an awareness-raising gesture. The event, conducted in cooperation with the American Football Coaches Association, grew out of a study released earlier in 2004 which found that gambling among student-athletes wasn't pervasive but was occurring frequently enough to warrant concern.

The NCAA conducted an anonymous survey of 21,000 student-athletes in all three divisions and found that almost 34.6 percent of male student-athletes engaged in some type of sports wagering in the previous year. While any gambling could raise concern, NCAA bylaws prohibit gambling only on pro or college sports in which the NCAA sanctions a championship. In Division I, the figure was 28.8 percent; in Division II, 33.5 percent; and in Division III, 40.7 percent.

Some NCAA officials attributed the difference to greater anti-wagering education in Division I. The survey seemed to bear this theory out, with athletes at that level reporting greater knowledge of the Association's rules against gambling.

Among football players, 36 percent reported wagering on college or pro sports, and 23.8 percent had wagered on college sports. A limited number of football players reported actions that threatened the integrity of the game: 1.1 percent reported accepting money for playing poorly in a game, 2.3 percent reported being asked to affect the outcome of a game, and 2.8 percent of Division I football players reported providing inside information about a game. Finally, 1.4 percent reported having affected the outcome of a game because of gambling debts.

The newly formed NCAA Sports Wagering Task Force has distributed booklets and posters to every athletic department, and another Sports Wagering Awareness Day is planned. A wagering awareness Web site for coaches and student-athletes is also in the works.

What can coaches do? Watch their players' behavior, for one thing. The NCAA's Office of Agent, Gambling, and Amateurism Activities is drawing on the survey to develop a profile of student-athletes who might be likely to wager on sports. Though only five percent of student-athletes surveyed reported signs that they could be classified as problem or pathological gamblers, certain risk-taking and impulsive behaviors could suggest they are potential problem gamblers, according to the AGA Office. These are:

* Committing traffic violations.
* Making impulse purchases.
* Having family and friends who gamble.
* Abusing drugs or alcohol.
* Stealing.
* Having multiple sexual partners and engaging in risky sexual behaviors.
* Having different post-college goals than non-gamblers.