Kentucky Regulators Reviewing NCAA Request for College Player Prop Betting Ban

The NCAA has been lobbying states to prohibit those betting markets due to concerns about student-athlete harassment and threats, among other things.

Apr 23, 2024 • 18:06 ET • 4 min read
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The NCAA wants Kentucky to ban college player prop betting, but regulators in the commonwealth are still mulling over the request. 

NCAA President Charlie Baker sent a letter seeking the ban via email to the general counsel of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) on March 29, according to a copy provided to Covers by the regulator.

Baker and the NCAA have been lobbying states to prohibit those betting markets due to concerns about student-athlete harassment and threats, among other things. Kentucky is a state that allows college player prop betting, which explains why Baker wrote the KHRC. 

“Surrounding states already maintain anti-prop betting measures,” Baker wrote. “In March 2024, Ohio joined states like Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia to implement a full ban on individualized student-athlete prop bets."

Know your audience

The letter is indeed similar to the one Baker sent to the Ohio Casino Control Commission at the end of January, which ultimately led to the Buckeye State banning wagering on college player props. 

Several concerns that the NCAA president voiced to Ohio regulators were again raised with the KHRC, albeit updated for a Kentucky audience. Baker, for instance, said “real-time data collected through the NCAA’s educational work” found 30% of Division I men’s basketball players reported harassment from someone with a betting interest. 

“Player prop bets attach an individual student-athlete’s name to a bet and therefore increase the likelihood of betting harassment being targeted toward them,” Baker wrote. “Recent media reports of harassment and threats directed at members of the Kentucky basketball team highlight the vitriol that is allowed on social media platforms, and the NCAA sees the same vitriol from bettors.”

A spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is still reviewing the college player prop matter. The KHRC met Tuesday afternoon in Lexington and commissioners were due to receive an update from the regulator's sports wagering division, but the college player prop issue was not on the agenda. 

However, Covers can’t confirm whether the matter was discussed during the meeting as it was not livestreamed. That is not required under Kentucky law, the spokesperson said. 

A pro-prop jurisdiction

Still, Kentucky is a state that allow college player prop betting in some form, and one that only recently launched legal sports betting.

That makes the commonwealth a target for the NCAA’s lobbying efforts, which worked in Ohio, where the regulator determined college player prop wagering made up only around 1.35% of the state's total sportsbook handle in 2023.

Other states, such as Maryland and Louisiana, opted to ban college player prop betting even without a direct request from the NCAA, although they were aware of the organization’s efforts. 

“We appreciate your attention to this matter and know you are dedicated to a responsibly regulated marketplace in Kentucky,” Baker wrote on March 29. “Thank you for the opportunity to request a prohibition on player-specific prop bets and related markets. We welcome the opportunity to explore these preventative measures with you and your team soon.”

Twenty states offer college player prop markets in some form (“a majority” of legalized betting jurisdictions, Baker noted): Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 

At least one state, Montana, has pushed back when the NCAA came calling. There, the state lottery director said they were supportive of trying to curb student-athlete harassment, but that Montana's relatively small population and the limited number of betting markets for local teams were reason enough to keep college player props.

But Baker’s campaign has been supported by others, such as by New York’s top gaming regulator, who recently sent a letter to the NCAA president hailing his efforts. The Empire State already prohibits college player prop betting, but New York State Gaming Commission Chairman Brian O'Dwyer saluted Baker for shedding light on the concerns tied to college player prop betting.

“As regulators of the largest sports betting market in the United States, we continue to believe the prohibition of college proposition betting on student-athletes is appropriate,” O’Dwyer wrote. “New York State appreciates your efforts to help implement this important protective measure nationwide.”

Baker's letter to the KHRC said the NCAA has "closely monitored the legalized sports betting landscape" since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, and that it is "deeply concerned" about the possible risks it poses to student-athletes. 

That is why, Baker wrote, the NCAA began a push in 2023 to get states to tweak their various laws and rules to include more protections for those athletes. Some, such as Ohio and West Virginia, have passed laws that allow bettors to be banned for threatening players.

The NCAA is hoping for similar moves in other states, as well as having their opinions heard before certain bets are approved. That is in addition to the efforts to ban college player prop betting.

“The NCAA national office regularly hears concerns from schools and student-athletes across the country on the impacts of sports betting,” Baker wrote. “Those schools and student-athletes cite issues surrounding player prop bets, including instances of harassment, competition integrity and other well-being concerns.”

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