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SEC Commissioner Uses 'What About The Kids' Argument Against Legal Sports Betting

Commissioner Greg Sankey Cites Student-Athlete Mental Health Concerns To Argue Against Gambling Expansion

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All four of the major American professional sports leagues have either become proponents of legal sports betting or at the very least, have softened their stances against it. MGM partnered with MLB, NHL and the NBA, while Caesars Entertainment became the NFL’s first casino partner at the start of 2019.

The NCAA’s Southeastern Conference, however, is refusing to change its anti-gambling stance. According to an AP report, at the conference’s media day earlier in July, commissioner Greg Sankey used a familiar talking point to illustrate why the conference is against betting on games.

We need to worry about the kids.

Sankey pointed to mental health issues plaguing many in the country and argued that those issues would be heightened in the student-athlete community if their contests were bet on.

“We’re seeing trends in the mental health area that should cause all of us to pause before these ideas around specific event betting within college sports are allowed to take place,” said Sankey. “And I’m talking about, for example, whether a field goal is made or missed, whether a 3-point try is successful. Is a pitched ball a strike or a ball? That pause should happen before any of these types of activities take place.”

Despite Sankey’s objections, there are several states within the conference that have legalized the activity. Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi all have passed sports betting legislation in the last few years.

Sankey added later in the press conference that “it may be ideal for us not to experience any expansion in sports gambling,” but the administration of the schools that are in the SEC don’t share his opinion.

“The SEC presidents and chancellors have expressed strong support for NCAA national office to seek federal legislation that will regulate sports gambling,” said Sankey.

Adam Silver, the current commissioner of the National Basketball Association, has established a more pro-sports betting stance than Sankey, but his predecessor David Stern agrees with Sankey’s anti-sports betting position.

Last April, Stern was the keynote speaker at a symposium on the impacts of legalized sports betting, where he said that ‘college kids can be more easily influenced’ if sports betting was legal.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said that sports betting was a ‘great source of fan engagement’ and is setting up the league to be sports betting friendly. With Illinois passing sports betting last month, there were several reports that said the Chicago Cubs were considering opening a sportsbook inside Wrigley Field.