Monday, June 18, 2018
Florida Gators

Sports betting discussed at SEC meetings, but few answers yet

DESTIN — As SEC administrators and coaches met for hours at the Hilton Sandestin, they didn't seem to have any resolutions over one of their most pressing issues.

What do you do about the recent Supreme Court decision that paved the way for legalized sports gambling?

"I think we're all trying to get our arms around that," Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin said.

It's been less than three weeks since the court ruled that federal laws couldn't stop states from choosing to allow betting on sports, and no changes are imminent in Florida and most other states. But the SEC is trying to sort through some big-picture issues now before getting into specifics as gambling grows and football season nears.

"My statement is, we need to take time to learn," commissioner Greg Sankey said. "It's new."

Sports betting itself isn't new. It was already legal in Nevada, and it was happening in the shadows, either online or elsewhere.

What's new is the prospect of being able to legally bet on games easily. The fact that Mississippi, a state with two SEC programs, is expected to be one of the first states to open up gambling adds to the urgency.

RELATED: What's next for sports gambling after the Supreme Court ruling Monday

If betting expands, Sankey said college athletics could be especially susceptible to gamblers seeking information.

NFL teams have only 53 players on each roster. College teams have 85 on scholarship, plus walk-ons. Add in coaches, support staff, trainers and students who see players around campus, and there are hundreds of people who could link bettors to players.

"There's a lot of touchpoints," Sankey said.

The concern is that those touchpoints start affecting the outcomes of games. Schools were already educating players about those possibilities, but they plan to ramp up those efforts before the fall to explain what the court's ruling means, what it doesn't mean and, most importantly, what to do if someone contacts you about point shaving.

"The integrity of the game and what takes place on the courts and in the fields and every place else is really important," Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said. "This just gives you another reminder of staying on top of that on a regular basis."

While schools are steadfast about protecting the integrity of their games, they're still processing almost everything else.

The SEC has had occasional conversations with oddsmakers alerting them to potential issues in the past. Sankey isn't yet sure how those conversations might improve or be streamlined.

While the ACC has an injury report that could help gamblers, the SEC doesn't. The SEC doesn't have a concrete proposal for one, and administrators aren't yet sure how health and student privacy laws might affect its implementation.

There's even uncertainty about one of the few consensus actions: Increased education.

What new kinds of new training is necessary? Do you need to expand the compliance staff? By how many people?

"What are those costs going to be?" Stricklin asked. "Is there something you can do to offset those costs?"

The SEC's coaches and administrators spent this week discussing those questions. They have what's left of the offseason to start coming up with answers.

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