Should Ohio ban prop bets for college sports? Ohio State asks for restrictions

Colleges concerned about sports betting in Ohio
E.J. Liddell, Colby Jones
Posted at 5:24 PM, Apr 08, 2022

CINCINNATI — As the Ohio Casino Control Commission develops the rules for a sports betting industry that debuts in January, Ohio State University is asking for restrictions on the type of bets allowed and enhanced penalties for “coercion and cheating.”

The request is outlined in a Jan. 28 letter to the commission from Stacy Rastaukas, vice president of government affairs.

“Our principal concerns are for the ongoing safety and well-being of our student body,” Rastaukas wrote. “Both athlete and non-athlete students will be exposed to undesirable behaviors surrounding wagering on collegiate events, and we must work together to ensure the best outcome for both our student population and the state of Ohio.”

The commission has yet to finalize rules on the type of bets allowed, but it has established a process in which a sports governing body can propose a ban on specific wager types. That process comes down to a determination by the commission’s executive director on whether prohibiting a bet will “ensure the integrity of sports gaming or will be in the best interests of the public.”

Among Ohio State’s recommendations:

  • Limit collegiate sports wagering to football and basketball only.
  • Restrict wagers to the outcome of the game and prohibit prop bets on collegiate sports.
  • Create enhanced penalties and enforcement for coercion and cheating.
  • Specify that club sports are not eligible activities under sports wagering.

“Outside gaming influences from those seeking to gain an edge in their wagering have used college students who are roommates, friends of, or the competitors themselves to create an advantage for themselves or even throw games,” Rastaukas wrote. “This must be prevented for the safety of the students and the integrity of the competition.”

Ohio State was the only university to submit stakeholder comments since the gaming control board started publishing proposed rules in January. But it’s not the only school with concerns about Ohio’s development sports betting industry.

“I get a call once a year, sometimes twice a year from either the FBI or the security company that handles the casinos out in Las Vegas because our line has moved too much,” Xavier University Athletic Director Greg Christopher said Thursday. “Inevitably, it leads to some questions like, ‘Who was playing? What was known/wasn’t known?’”

Christopher was among four local athletic directors to participate in a “Future of Sports” panel discussion at Hard Rock Casino downtown, an event organized by the Cincinnati Business Courier. He is most concerned about proposition bets, which are permitted by Ohio law and defined as “a wager on a sporting event that is based on whether an identified instance or statistical achievement will occur.”

Such bets are rising in popularity. Examples include whether the Cincinnati Reds will win fewer than 74.5 games this year, whether Hunter Greene will win National League Rookie of the Year and whether Joey Votto will lead the league in home runs this year. All are available prop bets at Caesars Sportsbook.

“The prop betting is the stuff that can happen along the way. That’s just fun and engaging,” Cincinnati Reds President Phil Castellini told the Future of Sports crowd. “Especially our game, when we have so many of them, how do I keep people engaged longer per game?”

The Reds have expressed interest in building a sportsbook at the Banks. But Castellini said the chance for engagement is the biggest benefit of sports betting in Ohio.

“It’s going to be the game and a second screen whether you’re in-venue or not,” Castellini said. “That’s where the community is going. You’ve got to be where the community is going if you want the engagement.”

Christopher said the rules should be different for college sports because athletes are less insulated than professionals.

“You think about Joey Votto. He’s insulated,” Christopher said. “He’s making enough money that he’s not going to jeopardize his career over a prop bet or any other kind of gambling activity. But you know our basketball players, who are now making five, six figures, they’re not in that same position. They have to go to class with the same people that are betting on them. They have to live with the same people that are betting on them. That’s very different than a professional athlete.”

Miami University Athletic Director David Sayler said players are already exposed to gamblers fishing for information.

“One of our basketball players was telling me he’s gotten random texts about, ‘Are you playing tonight?’ From a cell phone. I don’t know how that person got our student athlete’s cell phone number but they did and that kid was injured. So, they obviously knew there was something going on. And the question was, ‘Are you playing tonight?’ So, that’s the stuff that really keeps me up at night,” Sayler said.

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