Dueling Virginia Sports Betting Bills Have Different Ideas About College Betting

Posted on March 4, 2020 - Last Updated on March 20, 2020

Legalizing wagering on sporting events in Virginia appeared to be on a fast track. A big difference between two sports betting bills threatens to slam the brakes on that process, however.

Both chambers of the VA legislature have a bill that has broad support. There is one particular tenet of both bills that may delay concurrence between the two bodies on the matter.

What’s the big difference between the two Virginia sports betting bills?

The main point of differentiation between the Assembly and Senate bills has to do with in-state colleges and universities like the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. As is the case in other jurisdictions like Illinois, one of the houses wants to exclude wagering on games involving in-state college teams.

That’s the lower chamber of the VA legislature, the General Assembly. That part of the government in Richmond has the votes to approve such a bill right now.

Getting the upper chamber, the VA Senate, on board with that looks murky right now, however. The Senate also has its own popular and similar bill.

That bill varies greatly from the Assembly version on this point. It would allow legal wagering on all college sporting events, regardless if it involves a Virginia school or takes place in the Commonwealth.

There’s some potential for a compromise on this point. Iowa and Tennessee present a possible option for VA legislators.

How Iowa and Tennessee treat betting on college teams

In Iowa, legal sportsbooks are free to accept some wagers on college games, regardless of whether the event takes place in the state or involves Iowa schools. However, Iowa bars sportsbooks from posting live or in-game proposition bets on events dictated by individual players’ performances, however.

For example, Iowa sportsbooks can’t take action on how many touchdown passes a college quarterback will throw in a game. They can, however, put up odds on how many touchdowns a team will score in the same games.

In Tennessee, the proposed rules are a bit more restrictive. Although they aren’t finalized yet, the proposals would ban any live or prop wagers on collegiate sports.

This could represent a compromise between the two factions. However, one side of this argument is sadly misguided. Banning or limiting legal wagering on college sports doesn’t protect athletes. In fact, it does the exact opposite.

Why keeping college betting on the black market does more harm than good

The concern of proponents of the Assembly’s bill is that college athletes would be vulnerable to match-fixing attempts. Since institutions don’t compensate their athlete-employees equitably, that produces an idea that they are more likely to accept bribes to throw games.

A simple solution to that problem would be to compensate them fairly, but the current powers in intercollegiate sports are resistant to doing so. Carving college sports out of regulatory frameworks wouldn’t reduce the chances of that happening, however.

On the contrary, it would increase the likelihood of that situation. Bettors and fans already wager on college sporting events despite the illegality of such in places like VA.

By restricting such activity, the state would ensure those bets continue to go through illegal bookies and offshore sportsbooks. Those illegal gambling operations are more likely to facilitate match-fixing schemes than regulated markets.

An example of this was in the news recently. A New York man pleaded guilty to trying to fix a college basketball game to aid an illegal gambling operation last month.

Additionally, pretending people don’t bet on college games harms college athletes because it denies them education on how those interests could affect their lives. An example of this is Baylor men’s basketball player MaCio Teague’s brush with upset bettors on social media.

In that situation, Teague was completely uneducated about what a point spread was and why his missing free throws angered bettors. In a regulated market with athlete education initiatives, players have resources with which to deal with that kind of inappropriate behavior.

It’s in the best interest of athletes at places like Richmond, Virginia and Virginia Tech for the Senate bill to become law. If the Assembly version wins out, college athletes will be the ones paying the price for that ignorance.

Derek Helling Avatar
Written by
Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

View all posts by Derek Helling