Education First Early Response to Legalized Gambling

Education First Early Response to Legalized Gambling


MORGANTOWN — Next week, coach Dana Holgorsen will begin readying his West Virginia football team for the 2018 season opener on Sept. 1 against Tennessee in Charlotte.

But Holgorsen is not the only one trying to create a winning system for the season.

All across the state of West Virginia, fans have begun their football research, but this year it is different, for they are not looking for ways to put together fantasy football teams, but rather come up with ways to make very real bets on football games at casinos across the state.

Legalized gambling was approved in May for West Virginia and almost immediately a race was on to put it together in time for football season, which was cutting it quite close, but with a football team with a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback and with an opener as intriguing as one against Tennessee, having it ready for the opener could offer a financial bonanza.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Right now, though, the people in state aren’t quite sure how attractive legalized gambling is for them. A quick poll on Twitter Wednesday afternoon had 46 percent of responses saying they would never gamble, with another 32 percent saying they would gamble only sporadically. Eight said they would bet on every WVU game and 14 percent said they would take advantage of other gambling opportunities.)

Legalized gambling on sports is certainly the wave of the future, especially in Big 12 territory where it is expected that within five years, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as West Virginia, will be legally taking games on football and basketball, as well as professional sports.

That means six of the Big 12’s 10 teams will be in states offering such a service — Texas has not yet taken advantage of the Supreme Court’s May decision to allow states to offer legalized gambling.

Even though gambling has been an American fascination since the first person ever challenged “heads or tails”, no one knows how this will play out and there certainly are some questions about it, not the least of all being players, coaches or officials who bet on games.

It can happen. Ask Pete Rose.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen relaxes before beginning the interview rounds.

“I don’t have any fears. If there was five different spots in West Virginia, I don’t think any of our players are going to go do that. They’re the most recognizable figures in our state. If they’re dumb enough to do that, then they’re dumb enough to do a whole bunch of stuff,” Holgorsen said at Big 12 Media Day.

“It’s been discussed,” Holgorsen continued. “Obviously because it’s such a high-profile situation across the country. It’s been discussed within our office and our administration office.

“We will talk to our players about it. We do every year. It used to be the No. 1 thing that would get you banned from being able to play football. It was a clear-cut No. 1. It’s probably a clear-cut No. 2 now based on what’s happened over the last few years, but it’s something we will address with them.”

Other coaches are creating their approaches to the situation.

“I think the distraction piece, it’s like anything else that’s out there right now,” Iowa State’s Matt Campbell said. “Certainly, when you deal with 18-to-22-year-olds, it’s about being educated on how topics can affect their lives.

“So when this rule goes into play, it’ll be something that impacts and affects their lives. It’s our job as educators to educate them.”

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby isn’t sure how it is going to play out.

“Are we really going to end up with 50 states that all have different laws on legalized gambling?” Bowlsby said when addressing the Big 12 media. “What do we end up with if a couple of our states in the Big 12 footprint have legalized gambling and three others don’t? What do you end up with if some say you can bet on professional sports but you can’t bet on high school and college sports?

“It’s just taking a while to settle in,” he continued, “and, frankly, I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”

One thing that may happen is what happened with the NFL, where they were forced into putting forth honest injury lists on a weekly basis to avoid any betting advantages or insider information.

Many college coaches, including Holgorsen, are reluctant to discuss injuries that may affect a particular game, but Holgorsen isn’t worrying about it affecting his program.

“The injury thing I got my own opinions on injuries. My opinion is always going to be if the guy is out long term, I’ll say it and if I don’t know, I’m not going to say it because you never know when kids will respond to injuries and when they’re going to come back,” he said.

“These guys are not pros. They’re amateurs. They’re still trying to figure out how to play through specific injuries. If a guy is out long term, I will say it. If he’s not, we won’t talk about it.”

Bowlsby knows that is a subject that must be worked out.

“The FERPA and HIPAA considerations are substantial,” Bowlsby said. “We haven’t chosen to do it because we want to get some answers relative to the student records and the like.

“But my sense is that there’s going to be a hue and cry for that to happen and as long as we don’t get too far into the specifics of what the injury is and what kind of medication they may be taking and what the duration is and those kinds of things, but some sort of simple system may work.”

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