NCAA Exempts Montana’s Sports Pools From Wagering Policy

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The NCAA has clarified its sports wagering policy, which now specifically exempts Montana’s sports pools and ends concerns that the University of Montana football team might not be eligible to host postseason playoff games.

The NCAA issued the new policy after a meeting of chancellors and presidents Thursday in Indianapolis.

University of Montana President George Dennison on Thursday applauded the committee’s decision and said he recognizes the ethical issues the NCAA has with betting on the outcome of individual games.

“We’re certainly very pleased to have this issue removed so we can concentrate on what’s really important — and that’s to win games,” he said.

In May, an NCAA spokeswoman said UM should not have been allowed to host football playoff games last season because the state allows some forms of legalized sports gambling.

The issue came to light after NCAA officials, citing association rules, threatened to ban all playoff games in Delaware as that state considered legalizing wagering on the outcome of sporting events.

When it was pointed out to the NCAA that Montana, which also allows some forms of legal sports betting, hosted three Football Championship Subdivision playoff games last fall, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn called it an “administrative oversight” and said it was “an error on our side and it’s not going to happen again.”

State and university officials argued that Montana law allows betting on fantasy sports leagues, not on the outcome of single events, which was prohibited under NCAA rules.

The new NCAA policy states: “No predetermined or non-predetermined session of an NCAA championship may be conducted in a state with legal wagering that is based upon single-game betting (high school, college or professional) in a sport in which the NCAA conducts a championship.”

The NCAA defined single-game betting as wagering that involves either a money line or point-spread wager. “The recommended policy would not apply to those states that may offer parlay betting, lottery tickets or sports pools/pull tabs,” the new policy states.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock also praised the decision, which also affects any playoff or tournament games that could be hosted by the University of Montana, Montana State University in Bozeman or Montana State-Billings, an NCAA Division II institution.

“I applaud the NCAA for coming to a commonsense conclusion that preserves Montana’s right to host playoff and tournament games. And I’m proud to have worked hand-in-hand with the universities to help the NCAA understand Montana’s gaming laws,” Bullock said in a statement.

“As a state, Montana wholeheartedly supports its student athletes. Along with the NCAA, we remain committed to protecting the integrity of collegiate sports,” Bullock said.

A 1992 federal law banning sports betting exempted four states that already offered legalized sports gambling — Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Delaware.