Hoops Legend McMillen Casts Doubt on College Sports Betting in Md.

    One of the top stars in Maryland sports history wants state officials to tread carefully as they consider whether to give the green light to sports betting in the state.

    In his capacity as president and CEO of the LEAD1 Association, which represents the athletics directors of the 130 universities in the NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision, Tom McMillen, a former Democratic congressman from Maryland, has written to Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), expressing fears that allowing college sports betting in the state could lead to widespread scandal. He said that almost 80 percent of the university athletic directors his organization represents oppose legalizing betting on college sports.

    “College athletes, as unpaid students, live and study in open environments on our campuses, and do not enjoy the substantial incomes of professional athletes,” McMillen wrote in his letters, which were dated Jan. 18. “As a result, they are more susceptible to inducements and corruption. In fact, all sports gambling scandals involving players in the United States in the past twenty-five years have been at the college level. State-endorsed betting on college sports will only increase the likelihood that such scandals will recur.”

    The Supreme Court last year struck down a 1992 federal law outlawing gambling on sports. Several states have moved quickly to legalize sports betting, but Maryland did not have a mechanism in place to institute sports betting, stoking fears that the state could be missing out on critical revenues.

    Legislation will be debated in this year’s General Assembly session, but even if it passes it may require the question to be put before voters in the statewide 2020 election, because all questions of legalized gambling in Maryland are dictated by the state constitution.

    McMillen, who served in Congress from 1987 to 1993, remains a sports legend in Maryland. He was a star basketball player at the University of Maryland in the 1970’s and spent 11 seasons in the NBA. He was elected to Congress the same year he retired from the league, but lost his seat following a member-vs-member contest with then-Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R), necessitated by redistricting. McMillen later served on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.

    In his letter, McMillen argues that legalizing betting on college sports could have a significant impact on Maryland’s budget.

    “Because of the student-athlete vulnerability, our institutions in long-standing legal sports betting markets, such as the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Nevada, Reno, have incurred greater compliance costs than institutions in states where betting is not legal,” he wrote. “These expenditures have been necessary to ensure student-athletes are protected from the negative influences of sports betting where sports betting is legal and more accessible. In any legal sports betting market, it will be imperative that our institutions devote significant compliance resources to maintain the integrity of college sports.”

    McMillen concludes: “Given the popularity of betting on college sporting events in the legal and illegal marketplaces across the country, we would urge that the state of Maryland take all necessary steps, including allocating resources, to protect and insure the integrity of the college sports which enjoy tremendous popularity and support throughout the state.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.