July 19, 2005
By Tom Davies
Associated Press Writer
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The NCAA plans to begin more closely monitoring betting lines on games and to start background checks on baseball and hockey officials as part of its antigambling efforts.
The moves are being made after an NCAA study last year found that 35 percent of male athletes and 10 percent of female athletes had gambled on college sports during the previous year.
One response from an NCAA task force on gambling would have the organization start checking in regularly with a longtime antagonist -- the Las Vegas sports books.
Rachel Newman-Baker, the NCAA's director of gambling activities, said Tuesday the group hoped to re-establish contact with the oddsmakers to watch for instances where heavy wagering has caused significant changes in point spreads or for the casinos to pull games off the board.
The steps were presented to the NCAA's management council during its meeting this week near Los Angeles.
The NCAA has not yet decided how it will communicate with the sports books, but might do so directly or through Nevada casino regulators, Newman-Baker said.
"We want to know more about what is going on in Las Vegas," she said. "We just want to be more in the know."
Such an exchange will be welcomed by many in the Las Vegas gambling industry, said Robert Walker, sports book director at the MGM Mirage casinos.
While Walker said the casinos often have felt targeted by the NCAA in its battle against gambling, the oddsmakers share its concern for a fair game.
"It is imperative that the public knows that they have a 50-50 chance of winning and that both teams are trying," Walker said. "Otherwise, it is WWF wrestling out there."
Other antigambling steps planned by the NCAA include a new Web site and other efforts to educate athletes about the rules against gambling and adding background checks for hockey referees and baseball umpires who work during Division I tournaments.
Newman-Baker said such checks already are being done on officials for the men's and women's basketball tourneys, and that hockey and baseball are being added because those games typically have Las Vegas betting lines.
The oddsmakers are willing to help the NCAA ensure confidence in the games being clean, Walker said.
"I think the NCAA is on the right page when they say they want to work with us, because we do really have the same goal," he said. "There is nothing worse than finding out you are on the wrong end of a scandal."