Should Christians Gamble on NCAA Tournament?

Duke center Marshall Plumlee dunks the ball against Robert Morris. (Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports)
Duke center Marshall Plumlee dunks the ball against Robert Morris. (Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports)

Putting $10 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament office pool may seem harmless, but some contend it violates federal and state laws as well as biblical principles.

“Christians would be wise to refrain from gambling on the NCAA Tournament,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “That is the best way to make sure they are not violating their responsibilities before God and their fellow man. They should share their convictions with others and encourage them to refrain as well.”

The FBI estimates that more than $2.5 billion is wagered on March Madness each year, exceeding the amount bet on the Super Bowl, according to the NCAA website. The American Gaming Association estimated that Americans have filled out 70 million brackets this year with the average bet per bracket coming in at $29. The total number of brackets filled out exceeds the number of votes cast in the last presidential election for either President Obama or Mitt Romney.

The NCAA “opposes all forms of gambling — legal and illegal — on college sports,” according to the group’s website. Betting on college sports provides children an entry point to gambling, prompts individuals involved in organized crime to contact student-athletes and “threatens the well-being of student-athletes and the integrity of the game,” the NCAA said in a statement on its website.

NCAA Tournament betting also violates federal law and gambling laws in many states, law professor Marc Edelman wrote in Forbes.

“Most participants who pay entry fees into NCAA Tournament pools will probably never stop to consider the legal implications of their actions,” Edelman, associate professor of law at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, wrote. “However, while the participants in NCAA pools are rarely prosecuted, there is a strong argument that pay-to-enter contests violate both federal and state law.”

At least three federal laws, Edelman wrote, appear to prohibit NCAA Tournament pools in which money is involved:

— The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 has been interpreted by numerous courts as forbidding gambling online.

— The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 makes it illegal for any private person to operate a wagering scheme based on a competitive game in which “professional or amateur athletes participate.” A grandfather clause exempts previously authorized gambling in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.

— The Uniform Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits those “engaged in the business of betting or wagering” from knowingly accepting funds connected with unlawful Internet gambling.

“Beyond these three federal laws, there is also a strong argument that many pay-to-enter NCAA Tournament polls violate state gambling laws,” Edelman wrote.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Roach

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