Ohio Bans College Player Prop Betting Following NCAA Request

The NCAA had several concerns, including a "significant increase" in reports of student-athletes harassed by bettors.

Feb 23, 2024 • 14:07 ET • 4 min read
TreVeyon Henderson NCAAF Ohio State
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Wagering how many yards an Ohio State running back will rush for on any given Saturday is now no longer an option, at least legally, for bettors in the Buckeye State. 

Ohio Casino Control Commission executive director Matthew Schuler wrote to NCAA president Charlie Baker and the state's sportsbook operators on Friday advising them he approved the NCAA's recent request to ban "player-specific prop bets" on college sports events.

Schuler said that after weighing the evidence from the NCAA and sports betting site operators, he concluded there is "good cause" to support granting the request and that the ban will take full effect as of March 1.

“First and foremost, the occurrences of and increase in the harassment of student-athletes based upon their performance or statistics in an intercollegiate athletics competition presents a clear and present danger to the best interests of Ohio,” Schuler wrote. “Based upon the information the NCAA provided, it is apparent to me that player-specific prop bets may be directly related to player-specific harassment, including threats — meaning a decrease in the availability of these types of wagers could lead to a decrease in harassment.”

While the decision is a blow for lovers of college player prop betting in Ohio, it is a win for the NCAA and for Gov. Mike DeWine, who supported the ban. The governor pushed to reform the state's sports betting rules, including bumping up its tax rate, after incidents of student-athletes being harassed in the state were reported soon after the launch of legal wagering in 2023.

Baker and the NCAA are also lobbying state lawmakers for changes to their sports betting regulations following several integrity-related incidents involving college sports, such as the firing of Alabama's baseball coach after he provided inside information to a bettor in Ohio. That coach was officially banned from sports betting in Ohio this week by the Casino Control Commission.

The NCAA voiced several concerns about the college player prop betting available in Ohio, including a "significant increase" in reports of student-athletes harassed by bettors. The NCAA also flagged the risk of insider information being solicited or used, “because student-athletes, compared to professional athletes, are more accessible to other students and members of the public at large."

Another concern is the endorsement money that has recently come into college sports.

“[T]he NCAA asserts that player-specific prop bets may entice student-athletes into engaging in sports betting by betting on themselves to outperform a player prop bet related to their own game performance,” the letter notes. “These two concerns are further heightened by the impact of Name, Image, and Likeness (‘NIL’) income as some student-athletes will have more disposable income to wager on themselves and may be susceptible to entreaties to share information about their team from persons paying substantial sums of money under NIL arrangements.”

A spot of trouble

Lastly, the NCAA warned college player props could lead to more attempts at “spot fixing,” wherein bettors try to rig only a proportion of a game, and that props could act as a gateway to more microbetting among college students. 

Schuler sought input from sportsbook operators and asked them for data regarding college player props. The figures provided by operators showed they took roughly $104.6 million in college player prop sports betting in Ohio during 2023, or about 1.35% of the state's total handle last year.

The operators "generally objected to an outright ban" on the props, and several "cited their ability to investigate their customers over bullying or harassment" of college athletes and take appropriate action, Schuler said. Operators also argued a ban would drive that demand for college player props to the illegal market.

However, these arguments did not persuade Schuler to reject the NCAA’s request. If anything, they may have helped convince him to approve the ask. 

“Even assuming that the sports gaming companies are adept at investigating their customers who harass college athletes and taking appropriate actions required by law, these efforts occur after the harassment has occurred, whereas the NCAA’s request endeavors to stop the harassment from occurring at all,” the director wrote. “Given the relative small percentage of wagers placed on player-specific prop bets, I perceive the risk of a black market boom to be low.”

Joining the club

Ohio has proven itself to be a leader when it comes to regulating legal sports betting. It has even taken steps already to address harassment of athletes, including developing an app players could someday use to report abuse.

Schuler's letter also said the state is becoming the 25th to ban or limit player-specific prop bets for single games. 

Going forward, college props will only be allowed in Ohio on NCAA-governed events if they are based on full-team stats, meaning they are historically determined by the performance of at least two players.

The state's wagering catalog was updated on Friday to prohibit "any proposition or 'prop' bet on an individual athlete's performance or statistics participating in a sporting event governed by the NCAA."

Schuler said operators have until March 1 to “fully implement” the new restrictions and void all related wagers, such as those on games yet to occur.

“The NCAA has shown good cause to support its request to prohibit player-specific prop bets on NCAA collegiate events in Ohio,” Schuler wrote on Friday. “While I recognize that there may be a small negative impact to operator and tax revenue, the protection of student-athletes and the integrity of collegiate competitions far outweigh these impacts.”

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