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Millions of Americans are hoping to make a few bucks off their office March Madness pool this year. Even the president fills out a March Madness bracket, and the NCAA offers tips to help fans pick more winners than losers in the basketball tournament.
While the proliferation of office pools and bracket strategizing has pushed the popularity of the March Madness basketball tournament skyward, the NCAA maintains that it does not endorse gambling on collegiate athletics. What’s more, it is actively trying to ban daily fantasy gambling on college sports.
DraftKings Inc. and FanDuel Inc., the nation’s two largest daily fantasy sports companies, are offering players the chance to win prize money if they can pick winning team lineups for games, The Boston Globe reported.
However, the NCAA, which represents the country’s largest college athletics programs, is trying to stymie the gambling sites’ efforts. “We have made clear at every point in this national debate that daily fantasy sports competition should not be allowed to be conducted using college, high school, and youth sports programs,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy told the Globe.
The organization’s battle with FanDuel and DraftKings began in the fall, when the companies clashed with federal and state authorities over whether their offerings represented illegal or unlicensed gambling. The NCAA wrote letters to both websites, asking them to stop offering cash-prize games betting on the outcome of college sports because they might violate federal laws on gambling.
Christian Genetski, FanDuel’s legal chief, rejected the NCAA’s entreaty, saying that the organization has “no legal basis” to ask FanDuel to stop running contests based on college sports.
The fight is now being taken up by lawmakers: The state legislature in Indiana, where the NCAA is based, approved a bill that does not permit cash prizes for college sports games. As it stands, though, filling out a bracket on FanDuel or DraftKings is legal in most states, with the exception of Arizona, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, and Washington–which consider daily fantasy sports illegal gambling.
In the meantime, the NCAA will block advertising from fantasy companies during the March Madness tournament and will not allow officials working at the games to participate in paid fantasy contests. Athletes who play paid fantasy sports could also lose their eligibility.
With or without DraftKings and FanDuel, however, Americans will be betting on the outcome of March Madness games. Americans will complete about 70 million brackets for this year’s tournament, spending about $9.2 billion on office pools, Nevada sportsbooks, illegal bookies, and websites, according to the American Gaming Association. And surely, the NCAA benefits from the way that all of these gamblers are paying extra close attention to the games.