Tom McMillen Warns of Potential College Sports Betting Scandal

Tom McMillen Predicts College Betting Scandal

Tom McMillen serves as the head of an organization of 130 US college athletic directors.

Tom McMillen, the onetime Maryland Terrapins basketball star, NBA player, and former US Congressman, predicted the new sportsbook laws in the country would lead to a major NCAA sports betting scandal.

On those grounds, Tom McMillen said that 80% of athletic directors in the United States are against sports betting expansion.

McMillen should know what athletic directors think. He is the president and chief executive of the LEAD1 Association, which represents 130 of the college sports programs’ athletic directors in the NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision of college sports.

In that capacity, McMillen wrote an open letter to Maryland’s top political leaders: Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

The letter from the former U.S. representative seeks to convince Gov. Hogan, Senate President Miller, and Speak Busch to back off plans to legalize sports betting in Maryland. Maryland is one of over a dozen US states which is considering sportsbook legalization bills in the wake of a May 2018 decision by the US Supreme Court to repeal a federal ban on sports betting.

Tom McMillen Points Out Vulnerable Athletes

In his open letter, Tom McMillen warned Maryland’s leaders that, “College athletes, as unpaid students, live and study in open environments on our campuses, and do not enjoy the substantial incomes of professional athletes. As a result, they are more susceptible to inducements and corruption.”

“In fact, all sports gambling scandals involving players in the United States in the past twenty-five years have been at the college level. State-endorsed betting on college sports will only increase the likelihood that such scandals will recur.”

College Athletes’ Money Constraints

College athletes have time constraints and institutional constraints on holding jobs while on scholarship. Many athletes from less affluent homes therefore struggle with cashflow, even if they have scholarships worth tens of thousands of dollars.

It is that concern about money that makes college athletes so susceptible to payoffs from college alumni — often successful business people who either want to help out their younger peers or are willing to pay money for access to athletes. In the past, alums have paid college players money or given them jobs in order to pressure them to cover a point spread or, worse, shave points from the final score.

Are Athletes Vulnerable to Match Fixers?

Just as athletes are vulnerable to well-funded alumni, they might be vulnerable to match-fixers. Such people could pay relatively small amounts of cash to an athlete in exchange for throwing a game or point-shaving. Such inducements are a constant danger, but in an era where sports betting is more common and payouts are greater, the threat rises.

Those who argue that college athletes should be paid a stipend will argue that payments alleviates some of the concerns about sports betting. While athletes are susceptible about such payments, most go to college to gain an education or position themselves for their respective pro draft. Most are highly competitive. Unless facing a desperate situation, most athletes would never throw a game for an influx of cash.

Tom McMillen Letter on Sports Betting

Tom McMillen argues that maintaining the integrity of the sport will cost universities money, because they’ll need to track compliance. He pointed out those costs to Maryland’s leaders, stating, “Because of the student-athlete vulnerability, our institutions in long-standing legal sports betting markets, such as the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Nevada, Reno, have incurred greater compliance costs than institutions in states where betting is not legal.”

“These expenditures have been necessary to ensure student-athletes are protected from the negative influences of sports betting where sports betting is legal and more accessible. In any legal sports betting market, it will be imperative that our institutions devote significant compliance resources to maintain the integrity of college sports.”

With that setup, McMillen urged Maryland’s governor and legislative leaders to take steps to protect the process and protect students. While he does not advocate a ban on sports betting, McMillen suggests any legalization bill must include resources to protect college athletes.

He added, “Given the popularity of betting on college sporting events in the legal and illegal marketplaces across the country, we would urge that the state of Maryland take all necessary steps, including allocating resources, to protect and insure the integrity of the college sports which enjoy tremendous popularity and support throughout the state.”

Maryland Sports Betting: 2019 or 2020?

Draft legislation for Maryland sports betting has been introduced to the state legislature. Lawmakers will discuss sports betting legalization throughout 2019, including ways to approve sportsbooks this year and launch them in 2020.

The consensus opinion is Maryland cannot legalize sports betting without a statewide referendum. If so, then a ballot issue would not be available until November 2020, which is almost two years from now. If a ballot initiative is attached to the 2020 presidential election ballot in Maryland, then sportsbooks would not open in Maryland until 2021.

Tom McMillen’s letter suggests that those in-the-know believe the state legislature could pass a bookmaker bill in 2019.