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Heather Lyke asks Congress to outlaw college sports betting

The Pitt athletic director told a Senate committee gambling has a "corrosive" impact on student-athletes

NCAA Football: Virginia at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke appeared remotely before members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday and asked them to prohibit gambling on college sports. In her statement, Lyke said gambling has a “corrosive and detrimental impact on student-athletes and the general student body."

“While we understand that gambling on professional sports is here to stay, we urge Congress to directly address gambling on intercollegiate athletics and prohibit it, as was intended in PASPA and had been the case for so long,” Lyke told the committee.

PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018. The act had effectively outlawed sports betting in states other than Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. Since the act was struck down, sportsbooks have opened in 18 additional states as well as the District of Columbia.

While New Jersey and New York do not allow in-state sportsbooks to accept bets on games involving state schools or in-state college sporting events, none of the states that have recently allowed sports betting have totally prohibited gambling on college sports.

Lyke also stated in her testimony that the presidents of ACC schools are in unanimous opposition to gambling on college sports. In addition to the potential negative affects Lyke believes gambling can have on student-athletes, she noted that the “integrity of the game” could be impacted by specific types of gambling, such as prop bets, as well.

“Students may be susceptible to corruption and other abuses by gambling interests who will seek to utilize students as sources of information before placing wagers,” Lyke told the committee. “The advent of ‘prop betting’ – a bet on an individual occurrence within a game that is not outcome determinative, such as whether the next play will be a run or a pass – increases the number of scenarios in which a wager can be placed and increases the opportunity for student involvement and student-athlete influence on a result.”

The committee chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, was receptive of Lyke’s argument against gambling and suggested that “people who are in the business of gaming” could influence amateur sports or pose a threat to their integrity.

Graham attempted to prevent Nevada from accepting bets on college sports about 20 years ago but was opposed by the gaming industry. Graham did not succeed in stopping college sports gambling, which remains a major money-maker in the gaming industry.