When it comes to sports betting, the NCAA would just prefer to be left out of it.
Recall when the association essentially banned New Jersey from hosting top-level NCAA championships because the state began attempting to lay the groundwork for its NJ sports betting industry in 2012. That was the start of the NCAA’s quest to keep its amateur athletics separated from legalized wagering.
Now, the NCAA has walked back that policy. On Thursday, the association announced it will permanently rescind its ban, allowing states with regulated wagering to host NCAA championship events again.
NCAA returns to states with legalized sports betting
Following the SCOTUS decision on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) last spring, the NCAA temporarily lifted its ban. Despite that, the association still worked with the major professional leagues to fight against state-sponsored sports betting. In the end, it appears the NCAA saw writing on the wall regarding sports betting’s future in the US.
While college athletics conceded the host state issue, the NCAA remains opposed to wagering on its events. It also supports the idea of federal legislation that oversees all legal sports betting and bans any wagering on college athletics.
In its release, the NCAA said that “any proposed legislation should protect student-athlete well-being and the integrity of the games.”
Little to no movement has been made federally since the winter, however. Regardless, the NCAA is green-lighting its championship events to return to states with legalized sports betting.
Why did the NCAA change course?
State-sanctioned wagering took 2018 by storm. And it continues to be prevalent now.
Last year, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, along with five other states, joined Nevada as states with regulated sports betting. Another strong contingent of states, such as Indiana (in which NCAA has its headquarters), currently have sports betting bills that are just a governor’s signature away from being law.
Additionally, New York and Northwest states like Oregon and Washington are looking into sports betting. All three frequently host championship events, which made reinforcing the ban difficult, if not impossible.
PA sports betting welcomes in NCAA action
Certainly, the NCAA has its fair share of championship events. Across 24 sports, the association awards 90 championships.
The biggest, of course, is March Madness. The nearly monthlong men’s basketball tournament attracts plenty of attention, serving as a healthy boost for state-sponsored sports betting.
In Pennsylvania, for example, operators in March accepted more than $44.5 million in wagers, over $12 million more than the previous best month. Revenue jumped to $5.5 million, nearly $3 million more than the next-best period.
The Keystone State hosted first- and second-round NCAA tournament games in 2018, before PA sportsbooks launched. The tourney will return in 2022, back to Pittsburgh, where Rivers Sportsbook has thrived. Following those first and second rounds, the East Regional will shift to Philadelphia, which serves as the state’s de facto sports betting hub.
Certainly, in three years, the cross section of PA sports betting and arguably the most popular sports betting event of the year will become quite the spectacle.