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Record March Madness Betting Causes Increase in Athlete Harassment

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March Madness is always unpredictable, but it is expected that betting on this year's tournament will reach new highs. The American Gaming Association has estimated that legal betting will amount to $2.72 billion on both the men's and women's events, and there will be even more bet through unlicensed methods. While this is good for the iGaming industry and fans, the surge in betting brings increased risks, including threats and abuse aimed at student-athletes.

Pressure on College Players Increased

In the U.S., sports betting is now legal in several states; in 2023, $120 billion was wagered generating $11 billion in revenue. However, this expansion raises concerns about the pressure it places on college players and coaches, with instances of harassment, particularly online, growing.

The NCAA has said that a significant number of high-profile college athletes face abuse related to betting, with officials and other athletics-related personnel also being targeted. This situation demands more protective measures from educational institutions, emphasizing the need for awareness and support regarding gambling's impact.

Recent data indicates that approximately one in three high-profile athletes receive abusive messages from someone with a betting interest. Data also indicates that 90% of that harassment is generated online or through social media, while the other 10% is occurring in person, with some generated from other students on campus.

Charlie BakerNCAA President

Measures Introduced to Protect Athletes

Ohio has taken steps to address harassment, including a law aimed at preventing gamblers who threaten athletes from betting. Additionally, prop bets on college athletes' individual performances are being banned in several states, reflecting a push to mitigate gambling-related pressures.

Furthermore, efforts are underway to educate athletes and students about gambling harm. The integration of betting into campus life is notable, with a significant number of college students engaging in betting activities, highlighting the importance of preventive measures such as proposed geofencing technologies to block online gambling on campuses.

There are also legal issues, with instances of illegal betting and insider information sharing leading to criminal charges and NCAA sanctions, highlighting the very real issues surrounding sports integrity.

The excitement and unpredictability of March Madness will result in widespread betting, but the focus on match integrity is paramount. However, arguably, the sheer number of people betting on the tournament make match-fixing nearly impossible as there are too many people paying attention.

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