Ohio’s Ban on College Player Prop Betting Could Spread Easily to Other States

Other states have laws similar to the one that allowed the NCAA to seek a player prop betting ban.

Feb 26, 2024 • 12:27 ET • 6 min read
Ohio State NCAAB Bruce Thornton
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I guess I should be happy knowing it’s not just me and a handful of other sickos who are reading all these sports betting bills. As it turns out, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and its lawyers, presumably, may have also read a piece of legislation or two.

How do we know this? Well, last week, Ohio Casino Control Commission executive director Matthew Schuler approved the NCAA's request to ban "player-specific prop bets on intercollegiate athletics competitions," a request made pursuant to the state’s sports betting law.

Yes, according to the law in Ohio, a governing body like the NCAA “may formally request the commission to prohibit or restrict sports gaming proprietors from accepting wagers on a particular sporting event or to prohibit or restrict sports gaming proprietors from accepting a particular type of wager.”

If the commission decides there is “good cause” to grant the ban, they must enforce it ASAP, the law states. And that is what is happening in Ohio, with all college player prop wagering for individual games effectively finished due to concerns about harassment by bettors and inside information being sought and leaked, among other things.

I’ve seen some negative reactions to Schuler’s decision. OK, but what was he supposed to do? Not obey the law? Not regulate sports betting in Ohio? Oh, and ignore the governor who supported the player prop ban

Ohio regulators have been quick to take operators to task over their advertising and were ahead of the curve in recognizing and reacting to college player harassment. Schuler’s approval, to me at least, felt like a lock. 

“The NCAA has shown good cause to support its request to prohibit player-specific prop bets on NCAA collegiate events in Ohio,” the director wrote. “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.”

I suspect Ohio won’t be the last state to ban college player prop betting (gambling industry analyst Steve Ruddock suspected similarly in his newsletter this morning as well). Notably, the NCAA and its president, former Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker, are lobbying state lawmakers for similar prohibitions.

What I want to highlight is how easily Ohio’s prop ban could spread, because, in several states, there are laws on the books like that of Ohio, which will require regulators to give the requests consideration. All the NCAA has to do is ask.

You have the right to remain concerned

For example, it was Baker who signed the bill legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts. That legislation states an entity like the NCAA or a player union can ask the local gaming commission "to restrict, limit or exclude a certain type, form or category of sports wagering with respect to sporting events of the sports governing body."

But another part of the bill Baker signed bans college player prop betting. Indeed, as Schuler noted in his letter, while 38 states have legalized some form of sports betting, 13 do not permit college player prop bets for single games and 10 do not allow college player prop bets for in-state schools.

Still, that leaves 25 states where college player prop betting is on the menu at local sportsbooks with no or some restrictions. We also have significant markets such as California and Texas that have yet to legalize sports betting and have therefore yet to decide where they land on the issue.

Look at North Carolina, which is scheduled to launch online sports betting on March 11, just in time for March Madness. College player prop betting is allowed, but the state’s sports betting law also allows NCAA-type entities to seek bans like the one in Ohio. 

“A sports governing body may submit to the [North Carolina State Lottery Commission] in writing a request to restrict, limit, or exclude a certain type, form, or category of sports wagering with respect to sporting events of such body, if the sports governing body believes that such type, form, or category of sports wagering with respect to sporting events of such body may undermine the integrity or perceived integrity of such body or sporting events of such body,” the legislation states. 

Not worth the squeeze

Similar provisions exist in other states that allow college player prop betting, such as Illinois, Kentucky, and Vermont. And those were just the ones I found this morning. 

"[T]he NCAA, as the sports governing body responsible for the college athletic competitions at issue, is in the best position to determine threats to the integrity of its competitions and risks to participating athletes," Schuler wrote. "The General Assembly specifically recognized the unique role sports governing bodies play in ensuring the integrity of sports wagering in Ohio by creating the very statutory process that allows for the NCAA to seek wagering restrictions."

So, we’ve established that the NCAA could ask for bans like they got in Ohio and that there are mechanisms to see those requests heard and granted. The question, then, becomes whether states should grant those requests. 

Schuler’s justification included that the amount of wagering in the state on college player props was relatively small, amounting to around 1.35% of the total handle for 2023. However, citing the NCAA, the director said these props “most directly ‘attach an individual student-athlete’s name to a bet and therefore increase the likelihood of betting harassment being [directly] targeted toward them.’”

In other words, it’s just not worth it. Schuler added that it is "likely" many bettors will move on to other markets. 


Ohio did get pushback from sportsbook operators about the ban, including companies claiming they could investigate customers themselves over any alleged harassment.

“Many operators also argued that an out-right ban would drive those in that market to make those bets with illegal operators that have no safeguards in place for customers and are not accountable for complying with Ohio law prohibiting threats to athletes,” Schuler’s letter added.

It’s an interesting thought. Won’t these prop bettors just search out the same markets somewhere else, such as with an offshore sports betting site? If so, the prop-related harassment could continue, and Ohio has no say at all. It won’t even get that extra little bit of revenue from the wagering. 

Furthermore, killing props won’t eliminate harassment. There are jerks everywhere. What happens the next time a college kid misses a potentially game-winning field goal and goes to check his social media accounts afterward? It’s never going to be pretty. 

These arguments may persuade some regulators, even if they didn’t in Ohio. But Ohio also poked holes in those points in approving the NCAA’s request. Schuler even said that some of the arguments made by operators helped impose the ban, such as the claim that prohibition will drive business to offshore books. 

“The operators are assuming that all those in the market to make these bets will go to illegal operators or bookmakers to place bets if the NCAA’s request is approved,” Schuler wrote. “The operators failed to provide any factual basis to support this assumption. While some may revert to illegal operations, the vast majority of Ohioans engage only in legal gambling activity.”

I don't know how Schuler can assert the "vast majority" of Ohio is gambling legally, as he provides no data. He is, however, the regulator. But sportsbook operators, in trying to explain why they should be able to offer rushing yard props for an Ohio State-Michigan game, allegedly provided nothing “factual” to prove people will take their action offshore if they can’t engage in sports betting in Ohio

That, to me, is an even bigger problem, because one of the biggest arguments for regulated sports betting is it’s happening already, but it’s offshore, so we better regulate it. Now we (allegedly!) can’t even prove people will bet props offshore. Will states yet to legalize sports wagering demand more “factual” arguments from the industry before passing a bill?

Ohio is an example of how a state legalizing sports betting does not mean its job is done. The regulation and oversight lasts forever, or until sports betting is made illegal. Laws can be changed, rules can be updated. And the laws, right now, provide a way for the NCAA to seek similar bans on college player prop betting. 

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