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Gambling on College Sports

Behind the Blue Disk


What's the Big Deal?


The FBI estimates more than $2.5 billion is wagered illegally every year on March Madness, exceeding the amount wagered on the Super Bowl.

  • An increasing number of boys and girls are gambling before reaching high school and sports wagering is one of the typical entry points.
  • Technology allows easy and anonymous sports bets.
  • Athletes and others associated with teams are increasingly being contacted by outside sources — for instance, through social media — for inside information that can be used for betting purposes.
  • More than half of college students who bet on sports believe they can consistently make a lot of money gambling.

What is the NCAA policy on gambling on sports?

The NCAA opposes all forms of gambling — legal and illegal — on college sports and specifically prohibits coaches, administrators and student-athletes from gambling on any sports event or providing information to anyone gambling on sports. Sports gambling threatens the well-being of student-athletes and the integrity of the game. The NCAA works to preserve sportsmanship and to provide every student-athlete the opportunity to win fairly.

Isn’t gambling on sports harmless?

No. Student-athletes are sometimes viewed by organized crime and professional gamblers as easy marks for obtaining inside information or affecting a game’s outcome. Student-athletes who place wagers jeopardize their eligibility.

How does the NCAA define gambling on sports?

The NCAA defines gambling on sports as putting something at risk – such as an entry fee or a wager – in return for the opportunity to win something. NCAA sports wagering rules apply to all student-athletes, coaches, conference staff members, athletics administrators and non-athletics staff members who work with athletics departments.

Does the NCAA conduct background checks on officials?

The NCAA conducts background checks on officials and umpires in the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, FBS bowl games, the Men’s Frozen Four and the Men’s College World Series

What is the NCAA doing to educate about the dangers of gambling on sports?

Campus-level programs across the country are using NCAA-supplied educational materials. The NCAA enforcement team continues to investigate cases involving sports gambling across all divisions and sports.

What are some important terms to know about sports gambling?

  • A point spread is used to even the odds when the favorite team is matched against an underdog. Gamblers bet on a team’s final score rather than on who will win the game. A winning team covers the point spread when it wins by more than the expected number of points.
  • An over/under bet is a wager on the total points scored by both teams.
  • Point-shaving usually involves a gambler and athletes on the team favored to win a game. The gambler bribes the athletes to ensure their team will not win by more than the expected point spread. The gambler then bets the winning team will not cover the point spread.
  • A sports pool is an organized form of gambling in which participants put in money to wager on the outcome of a large number of games.
  • Fantasy leagues are games in which participants build teams to compete against other fantasy team “owners” using statistics generated by actual athletes. Fantasy leagues become a form of gambling when participants pay an entry fee to win a prize at the end of the season.


Download as a PDF: Gambling on Sports - What's the big deal?