Commissioner Greg Sankey holds a news conference to open SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame on Monday, July 16, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Sankey shares thoughts on SEC approach to legalized sports gambling

There’s a major change coming to the landscape of professional and college athletics — and SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is trying to be proactive about it.

At his opening remarks of SEC Media Days on Monday at the College Football Hall of Fame, Sankey laid out his evolving thoughts and plans to handle the potential integration of legalized sports gambling into college football.

That approach starts with a widely known — though inconvenient — fact.

“Gambling activity around sports is not new,” Sankey said, “and that includes gambling activity around collegiate sports.”

Sankey said the conference has been gathering information about gambling since 2011, which has helped the conference best approach the coming changes.

“One of the lessons is those involved in legalized gambling are the best at knowing what’s happened. I think some of the state laws include expectations for communication around transparency.”

In May, the Supreme Court struck down a law that effectively banned sports gambling in the United States. In doing so, states will be free to legalize such gambling — a move that will have seismic implications throughout the college football landscape in states that decide to do so.

Sankey wants to be sure the SEC is prepared for that new frontier. For him that starts with “monitoring what’s happening at a state and national level from a policy standpoint,” he said. 

He added that the SEC is involved in communications with other leagues — professional and collegiate — about how to best handle gambling.

Inevitably, though, this process will come with trial and error. Sankey hesitated to proclaim any sweeping changes or swift actions — there is no multi-step plan — because the landscape remains murky. For example, Sankey rhetorically posits, “Is there strange things that might happen around the line?”

Only time will tell. For now, the conference will approach the situation with one goal in mind.

“For us, the integrity of our games is of the utmost importance,” Sankey said. “While it may be preferred to have no expansion of gambling activity, what is needed now is for our state and federal legislative leads to enact policies that properly support the integrity of our games and provide the necessary protections for our students and our student-athletes.”

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