Make no mistake. Sports gaming is coming to parts of the Southeastern Conference. In some states, this will be sooner rather than later. And, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey wants to be prepared for it. In his opening remarks at SEC Media Days, he discussed his plans for the possibility of sports gaming in states that have teams that are part of the SEC. Some of those plans include preparing for the eventuality of sports gaming in the South.
The Southeastern Conference began in 1932 with 13 colleges. Ten of the founding member colleges have remained in the conference: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. The SEC has expanded twice; once to add Arkansas and South Carolina, and again to add Missouri and Texas A&M. The SEC is considered one of the wealthiest conferences in terms of television revenue, as well as revenue received from ticket and merchandise sales. The SEC, along with a handful of other conferences, has its own television network under the ESPN network.
The SEC and Current State of Gaming
Sankey said that the SEC has been studying the possible integration of sports gaming in places other than Las Vegas, where it has always been legal. While he admitted that this was not the outcome the conference saw coming, he noted that the conference had been researching the possibility of gaming coming closer to the South since 2011.
Currently, only Mississippi appears ready to legalize sports gaming as soon as possible. It appears, however, that other states in SEC territory might follow suit — possibly Missouri and Louisiana. For that reason, the SEC has been monitoring policies at both the state and national levels from each state within the conference. In addition, the organization has been talking with other sports leagues, including the professional leagues, such as the NFL, MLB, and NBA, in order to exchange information and discuss how to formulate rules for handling the expansion of states that will offer sports gaming. It is estimated that in the next few years, as many as 30 states may offer sports betting.
What the SEC Wants to See Happen
Because the organization is facing the very real possibility that at least one state in the conference will offer sports gaming, Sankey said that the colleges had discussed priorities that need to be considered in the future. First, the conference wants to protect the integrity of the games. This may mean that the conference will need to establish a regulatory committee in order to guarantee that games are free of influence. Many teams and leagues overseas already have regulatory agencies in place to ensure the integrity of the games. For example, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has a regulatory agency to monitor tennis matches from the beginning level of professional play to the top of the profession to makes sure that match fixing does not occur. In addition, soccer leagues hire outside companies or they have government agencies to ensure that games are played without the influence of gaming interests. In addition, the league wants government involvement to make sure that the games remain open and fair for all teams.
Whatever happens to sports gaming in the states the SEC serves, it is important to the conference that the explosion of sports gaming into the area is served by the conference. The commissioner’s concern is that the conference prepares itself for the rise in sports betting before the states allow it so that when sports betting does occur, all of the regulatory structures are in place.
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