Entain, EPIC Partner to Help NCAA Athletes Navigate New Sports Betting Pressures

Entain’s U.S.-based non-profit is partnering with EPIC Risk Management to educate college students, and athletes in particular, about the potential dangers associated with the rapidly expanding sports betting industry.

The Entain Foundation US is funded by Entain, the gaming operator that is a 50% partner in BetMGM and whose sportsbooks include Ladbrokes and bwin. The educational initiative is part of the company’s recent pledge to invest $137 million (100 million pounds) into responsible gaming initiatives over the next five years.

The foundation and EPIC, a consultancy that focuses on the risks associated with gambling, have previously partnered on collaborations with the NFL Players Association and USA Rugby. More than 40 schools are taking part in this educational program, including the entire ACC and MAC conferences, plus individual schools like Harvard, Oregon, UNLV and Monmouth.

NCAA athletes are not allowed to gamble on sports in any capacity, even in Super Bowl pools. That said, there are more nuanced concerns for schools. They include the importance of protecting information about a team’s health and operations; what to do if approached by a match-fixer; and how to identify if someone may be grooming you to shave points or throw a game.

“This is a topic that we take very seriously,” AJ Schaufler, associate athletic director for compliance at Monmouth, said in a statement. “These sessions are providing our students with an increased understanding of the risks of problematic gambling, and in particular, its close links to sports betting integrity breaches.”

More so than any other major U.S. sports entity, the NCAA has kept gambling at arm’s length. Leagues such as the MLB and NBA, which once stood with the NCAA in opposing legal sports betting, have embraced lucrative sportsbook partnerships and data deals. The NCAA, which could sell valuable rights to March Madness, has refrained from doing so, and only a handful of schools (UNLV, Nevada, Colorado) have their own sportsbook partnerships.

Baked into that reluctance is the NCAA’s understanding that its games might be more vulnerable to match-fixing. The players aren’t compensated like most pro athletes, and there are many tiers of college sports that don’t get the same attention and scrutiny as an SEC football game. Plus, as live betting on micro-markets—such as wagering on the outcome of individual plays, like free throws—becomes more prevalent, the perceived ethical lines for match-fixing may start to blur.

Back when Nevada was the only state with real legal sports betting, then-UNLV athletic director Mark Hamrick used to wait in the school’s arena after basketball games to see who was hanging around, and who his players left with. He also kept tabs on the Vegas sportsbooks to make sure his players weren’t seen inside.

“We know from international experience that the most successful sports betting operators are also the most responsible,” said Martin Lycka, an Entain executive and foundation trustee. “As legalized sports betting continues to expand in the U.S., education and responsible gaming is a top priority.”

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