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Inside the Latest Collegiate Betting Scandal: What We Know and What Comes Next

Everything you need to know about the latest ongoing investigation involving Iowa and Iowa State.

Iowa and Iowa State athletics are involved in the second college sports betting scandal within the past two weeks. While it’s different from the one involving Alabama baseball, it underscores that regulating gambling is going to take continued effort as legal betting becomes more widespread and accessible in the United States.

Who is involved?

In total, there are approximately 41 current athletes between Iowa and Iowa State in this investigation.

According to the Iowa’s published timeline regarding the investigation, university leadership “was notified of potential criminal conduct related to sports wagering that also suggested possible NCAA violations” on May 2. On May 5, a day after receiving the names of people who participated in sports wagering, the school alerted the NCAA to potential violations, notified athletes they would be held out of upcoming competitions and hired lawyers. On May 8, the school announced that 111 people were involved in the investigation, 26 of whom were athletes who participate in baseball, football, men’s basketball, men’s track and field and men’s wrestling, in addition to one athletic department employee. The school also announced the rest are student staff, former athletes or people with no connection to athletics, and there are no current or former coaches involved.

Iowa State hasn’t released such a thorough timeline but confirmed to the Des Moines Register that there were “approximately 15” athletes from football, wrestling and track and field who may have violated NCAA rules.

Who is conducting the investigation?

There are two entities tasked with investigating betting within the state. One is the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. The other is the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (think of it as Iowa’s in-state version of the FBI). Brian Ohorilko, the Racing and Gaming Commission’s director, says it did not launch an investigation.

“We’re monitoring this situation like everyone else,” Ohorilko says. “Our role is administrative, tasked with ensuring the integrity of the sports betting rules and regulations in those books. We hadn’t seen any indication of anything unusual related to that activity or wagering markets.”

The Racing and Gaming Commission reviews wagering markets and looks for irregular betting patterns.

This is what makes the situation in Iowa different from last week’s incident in Ohio that led to the firing of Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon—it was flagged because irregular large bets were placed on an Alabama baseball game. Betting markets involving Iowa and Iowa State were not removed by the in-state gaming commission, which means you can still bet on Iowa or Iowa State sports (although it’s May, and the most popular sports on which to bet—football and basketball—aren’t in season).

The Iowa Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Division of Criminal Investigation, sent this statement to Sports Illustrated on Tuesday morning:

“The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s (DCI) Special Enforcement Operations Bureau serves as the primary criminal investigative and enforcement agency for gambling laws in the state of Iowa. The DCI is involved in an ongoing investigation concerning potential criminal violations related to sports wagering, including individuals affiliated with the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. The DCI has been in contact with officials from both universities who are cooperating. At this time, no criminal charges have been filed and no further information will be released. The DCI is working cooperatively with the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission concerning any potential regulatory violations.”

What conduct is specifically being investigated?

That is currently unclear. As the statement above notes, the DCI is being tight-lipped around exactly what it is looking into. It is illegal to bet in the state of Iowa under the age of 21. It’s also illegal to knowingly permit someone under 21 to bet. NCAA rules do not allow athletes or athletic department employees to bet on a sport the NCAA sponsors at any level. So, for instance, a college football player cannot bet on an NBA playoff game.

How are other schools responding?

You can count on school compliance departments across the country to be reminding athletes and staff about what’s going on here. SI obtained an email sent to Florida’s entire athletics department Friday after the Alabama betting scandal became public:

A source at Oklahoma also shared an email from its compliance director with urgent priority, including two links to stories about the Alabama betting situation.

“As an OU Athletics Department staff member (or someone who has responsibilities within the athletics department) you are not permitted to place a wager (risk + reward) on any of the 24 sports sponsored by the NCAA. This means if it is an NCAA-sponsored sport, you may not wager on it at any level, including high school, college, or professional level. This is a blanket ban regardless of which sport or department you work for.”

Schools typically send out notices around the NCAA basketball tournaments to remind people not to even participate in any bracket pools as to not run afoul of the NCAA, and it’s common to see “don’t bet on it” posters in locker rooms at NCAA championships. A 2016 NCAA study found that 24% of male athletes and 5% of female athletes reported wagering on sports within the last year, and that was before gambling was anywhere near legal compared to the 33 states that now currently allow it. It is likely safe to assume that number has increased in the past five years.