With March Madness around the corner, North Carolina is poised to launch online sports betting, pending legislation and approvals. This prospect captivated attendees at last week’s NCAA Convention in Phoenix, including NCAA President Charlie Baker.

In his first State of the College address, Baker criticized the NCAA’s previous “outdated” and “ineffective” approach to sports betting education. He plans new educational partnerships and data collection to protect student-athletes from gambling harms like addiction and online abuse.

A panel of experts explored these issues in depth. UCLA Professor Timothy Fong spotlighted the “nonstop tirade of abusive language” in sports betting app chat rooms. This toxic culture threatens student welfare and game integrity as North Carolina considers legalizing sports betting apps.

Currently, 46 NCAA schools operate in North Carolina, including 18 Division I institutions, so safeguarding students is paramount. North Carolina lottery officials recognize this, evidenced by existing responsible gambling initiatives set to expand.

For instance, the North Carolina Lottery Commission continues partnering with EPIC Global Solutions to provide free harm prevention training to schools like East Carolina University and Duke University. Their “Draw the Line” campaign debuts digitally this March to promote responsible sports betting practices. The lottery also runs college recovery programs and is considering promotional deals with sports betting operators like Caesars Sportsbook North Carolina.

As the North Carolina General Assembly debates launching sports betting before March Madness tips off, Baker will likely voice his concerns. With decades of leadership experience as Massachusetts governor and now president of the NCAA, Baker wants updated rules addressing student-athlete vulnerability. His vision includes shields from predatory sports betting practices like unsolicited promos and bonuses designed to hook college bettors.

While passionate fans wagering on March Madness energizes campus spirit, the expansion of North Carolina sports betting warrants thoughtful consideration by legislators and regulators. Doing so protects student welfare and prevents game integrity erosion through corruption. That’s why school administrators eagerly anticipate modernized NCAA gambling policies under Baker’s direction in areas like enforcement, education, and data analysis.

By taking a proactive, compassionate approach to this complex issue, North Carolina can pioneer regulatory frameworks balancing personal liberties with ethical sports betting. Our state is home to treasured college basketball traditions, making it imperative that expanded gambling opportunities coexist responsibly alongside the priceless principle of preserving student wellbeing. Together, engaged citizens, policymakers, and school officials can collaborate on solutions benefitting all North Carolinians as we cheer on our schools this March.

✅ Fact Checked on January 27, 2024 by Ken Weaver