NCAA Sports Betting

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The DIII athlete’s sports bet the most among all NCAA divisions. 

   In 2018, the Supreme Court gave freedom to individual states whether to legalize sports betting. Including Oregon, 38 states have done so, with 29 allowing online wagering. It has grown to a massive industry, an estimated $220 billion is wagered annually, with more than 40 million Americans routinely placing bets. But within that betting, one group is not allowed to participate: all NCAA athletes and coaches. 

   The NCAA flatly defends the policy as a means to protect the “integrity of competition,” yet it is happening—and, especially at D-III schools like Pacific University, where it appears that students bet at higher rates than their D-I counterparts. All which makes sense: D-I and D-II athletes could lose their eligibility and scholarship money, and potential gateway to multi-million professional contracts. But what does the D-III athlete have to lose? And, anyway, whose watching? 

   March is arguably the best month for college sports betting thanks to the NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament, with more than 100 games ripe for betting in a span of three weeks with the men’s and women’s games. Ironically, tens of millions of betters will put their money on college athletes, but those same college athletes will have their eligibility revoked if caught on Draft Kings trying to hit their parlay. 

   Even so, the number of college-age betters is big: The NCAA conducted a Sports Betting Activity Survey in April of 2023 and found that 58 percent of 3,527 respondents in college between the ages of 18-22 have participated in at least one sports betting activity. Between the division levels the NCAA found that Division III the student-athletes bet the most (27%) compared to Division II (23%) and I (17%).

   When I asked a few D-III athletes if they bet on sports, they chuckled and said, “of course not.” Shortly after, though, one football player remarked, “We all do; that’s how I buy groceries every week. Unless I lose bad then I don’t buy groceries that week.”

  When I asked him what he bets on, he said mainly basketball and football at the college and pro levels. They said they do not use their names on their betting apps but often use their parents.

   “I am not really scared to get caught because no one pays attention to Division III athletes unless we are winning national championships, and even then, I don’t think it would matter,” explained the collegiate football player. “I mean, I still take the precaution of not using my name, but I do it because it’s fun and makes watching sports more entertaining.”

   No one at D-III is being paid to be there, and Division III games are rarely listed as betting options, so the idea that a Division III athlete will throw a game to make money is highly unlikely. Even so, the stakes and penalties are potentially the same for a D-I athlete at the brink of the NFL or NBA as it is for a D-III athlete; namely, eligibility.  

   “Yes, I am concerned about my eligibility being taken away, of course, but at the same time, I am not getting paid to be here,” said a D-III basketball player. “No D-III athlete has a scholarship to get taken away, and we are betting on D-I or professional games that do not affect us.”

   The basketball player said he could name ten players on his team who sports bet. He added that the majority of them lose way more than they win. He confessed to betting over 100 dollars last month and losing all of it.

   But, he explained, “(i)t’s the potential of winning that keeps us going.”


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