Recent College Betting Scandals Highlight Possible Kentucky Problems

Written By Adam Hensley on June 2, 2023 - Last Updated on June 29, 2023
Kentucky problems from college betting scandals

As Kentucky dives into the sports betting world in the coming months, one of its main priorities will be ensuring its college student-athletes aren’t doing the same.

Recent betting scandals at the University of Alabama and the University of Iowa prompted major questions about how college athletics steer clear of gambling. And both situations provide excellent context for why Kentucky should keep close tabs on its student-athletes.

NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes, coaches and staff members from betting on sports. That doesn’t mean just their sport. That includes all professional sports. For example, a University of Kentucky basketball player can’t wager on an NFL game.

When the legislature legalized Kentucky sports betting, it signed off on allowing bettors under 21 to place wagers. Anyone over 18 can legally place a sports bet once the industry launches later this year.

Could this lower age requirement tempt more student-athletes to place a wager? It’s something Kentucky will need to monitor.

Alabama baseball fired its head coach after suspicious betting

The University of Alabama baseball team squared off against LSU in a three-game weekend series last April.

Typically in those situations, the best pitchers face off on Friday. But Crimson Tide pitcher Luke Holman was a late scratch due to back tightness.

Instead, head coach Brad Bohannon opted for Hagan Banks. A sophomore, Banks hadn’t started in a game in more than a month. It was a surprise to all parties involved, as Banks received word that he’d be the No. 1 pitcher an hour before the game.

LSU won 8-6. It was an odd decision to start Banks, but nothing jumped off the page immediately.

But the state of Ohio saw some red flags.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission noticed two suspicious bets on LSU baseball for that game against Alabama. The OCCC immediately halted betting on college baseball games involving the Crimson Tide.

Regulators in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kansas and New Jersey also prohibited any wagers games involving the Alabama baseball team. Some sportsbooks in other states went ahead and removed any betting options related to the team.

According to an ESPN report, security footage revealed a gambler wagering on Alabama at the BetMGM Sportsbook at Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds. The individual was allegedly in contact with Bohannon before betting against the Crimson Tide baseball team.

Subsequently, Alabama fired Bohannon as an investigation was launched into the betting activity.

“There must be zero tolerance for activity that puts into question the integrity of competition,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.

It’s worth noting that no players appeared to be connected to Bohannon’s activities — just the head coach — according to the Tuscaloosa News.

Iowa student-athletes under investigation, but not for betting on or against their teams

Following the firing of Bohannon, the University of Iowa announced it received information about 111 individuals and their ties to sports betting. Of the 111 in total, 26 are current student-athletes, and another is a current athletics staff member.

No names were officially given, but the athletes compete in baseball, football, men’s basketball, men’s track and field, and men’s wrestling. It’s also worth noting that the staff member is not a current or former coach.

Iowa then notified the student-athletes in-season that they were not be competing in any upcoming events. This prompted plenty of speculation, especially around the baseball team.

Shortly after the announcement, Iowa baseball held out four players for its weekend series against Ohio State. And that list included Keaton Anthony, who’s one of the team’s top players.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s Brion Ohorilko told Action Network that the wagering by the current and former student-athletes was not centered around games involving Iowa sports teams — a clear distinction from what happened with Alabama.

“We review the types of wagers that come in and how suspicious they are,” Ohorilko said. “We have no reason to believe that there’s anything like that here. There wasn’t anything givnig us pause of leading us to believe that any of these markets were compromised.”

Let’s be clear: What happened at Iowa is not the same as Bohannon giving a bettor inside information before a game. But actions in Iowa City still prompted an investigation, as they violated NCAA rules.

Jordan Bohannon, who played for the Iowa basketball team from 2016-2022, explained on a podcast how he couldn’t access DraftKings’ website.

“They said I’m a professional athlete,” he said. “I can’t use their website.”

But clearly, some athletes circumvented these measures.

Jordan Bohannon said every school has the right to penalize student-athletes who break NCAA rules on sports betting.

Kentucky college athletes could be looked at even harder when it comes to betting due to 18+ laws

Kentucky’s sports gambling age requirement isn’t similar to most states that offer legal wagering.

In Kentucky, residents must be at least 18 years old to place a sports bet. The other jurisdictions with similar rules are New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Washington DC and Wyoming.

Some sportsbook operators already confirmed they’d keep a 21-plus limit, despite Kentucky’s stance. The first to secure a Kentucky license, Caesars KY Sportsbook, said it would remain 21-plus in the state.

Based on their statements to PlayKentucky, FanDuel KY Sportsbook and BetMGM Sportsbook KY will likely follow suit.

DraftKings Sportsbook Kentucky may be 18-plus when it launches in the Bluegrass State, as the operator told PlayKentucky it is “committed to following age restrictions set forth by each individual jurisdiction.” DraftKings is legal in New Hampshire and Wyoming and allows anyone 18 and older to bet.

It will be interesting to keep tabs on how many sportsbooks decide to allow betting from 18-year-olds because that would give more of the college-age demographic an opportunity to place bets.

Regardless, NCAA rules will prohibit any student-athlete (regardless of age) from placing any sports betting wagers. Student-athletes in Kentucky aren’t allowed to receive any sort of NIL deal from parties related to sports betting, either.

No college in Kentucky wants any betting scandal, even if it’s about players wagering on an NFL game. You can assume that as the state leads up to its launch, NCAA student-athletes will hear an earful on how they cannot bet on any sporting events.

RELATED: NCAA Study Reveals 60% Of College Students Bet On Sports

Photo by AP / Vasha Hunt
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a staff writer for PlayKentucky. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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