Coach: Legalizing fantasy sports puts student athletes at risk

  • A Senate committee passed a proposal to regulate fantasy sports companies like DraftKings, but some anti-gambling advocates say the bill does not do enough to protect student athletes.

    A Senate committee passed a proposal to regulate fantasy sports companies like DraftKings, but some anti-gambling advocates say the bill does not do enough to protect student athletes. Associated Press/File photo

 
By Mary Hansen
mhansen@dailyherald.com
Updated 5/18/2016 9:33 PM

A suburban baseball coach warned Illinois lawmakers that fantasy sports contests are wagering in the eyes of the NCAA and put student athletes who participate at risk of being suspended.

"It is not enough to simply put an age restriction; you should not allow these proprietors to allow student-athletes to risk their academic and athletic future," Phil Apostle, founder and coach of the Glenview-based Ranchers Baseball, said in a letter.

 

The NCAA considers paying the fantasy gaming entry fee a form of wagering and student athletes may not participate, Mark Strothkamp, the NCAA's director of enforcement, told ESPN.com last year. The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment.

A state Senate committee passed a measure on Wednesday that would regulate the booming fantasy sports industry. The proposal, which is similar to one that a House committee passed last month, sets the minimum age to play at 21 years old, includes taxes and licensing fees based on revenue, and requires some consumer protection measures.

Rep. Mike Zalewski, the Riverside Democrat who sponsored the House measure, said the proposal clearly bars fantasy games for NCAA sports.

"The universities asked for specific changes. We were responsive to those changes," he said. "If there's overlying fundamental fears about this technology, I would just hearken back to the fact that we feel that this is the toughest fantasy sports law in the country."

The proposal bans fantasy sports companies from advertising their contests on high school and college campuses and from using people under age 18 in commercials. But some anti-gambling advocates don't believe that restriction does much to shield young people from advertisements.

"Everybody's got a phone on college campuses, so they're going to get the advertisements on the phone," said Anita Bedell, executive director of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems.

The mother of a Chicago high school football player pointed out in another letter to lawmakers that young men who play sports are the demographic that the companies tend to target. Rhonda Brown, whose son goes to Mount Carmel High School, also asked lawmakers to reconsider the proposal.

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