Hate Speech Towards College Athletes Could Get You Banned From Betting in West Virginia

profile image of marcomarin
West Virginia Mountaineers fans celebrate in the stands during the college football game against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Ryan Hunt/Getty Images/AFP.

West Virginia legislators are contemplating a bill that would ban bettors who harass college athletes, coaches, or officials from using U.S. sportsbooks in the Mountain State.

Bad Behavior Bill

Now that more and more people are betting on sporting events in the United States there is a burgeoning new segment of the audience whose financial interest in the outcome can make them far more vituperous than the average fan with a strictly emotional investment.

A poor performance, a blown call, or a coaching miscue can cause millions of dollars to shift from one side to the other. But those who are adversely impacted are becoming more and more vocal about their displeasure and it has quickly become a growing concern.

A bipartisan bill, HB 3310, has recently been introduced by Delegates Shawn Fluharty, Clay Riley, Jarred Cannon, and Sean Hornbuckle to curtail the abusive activity and provide a safer haven for those engaged in college sports.

The bill states: (i) A patron may be banned from sports betting pursuant to subsection (d) of this section if the commission determines that the patron has harassed or shown a harmful pattern of conduct directed at a sports official, coach, or any participants of a sporting event.

Patterns of Abuse

Hofstra’s associate director for athletic communications, Stephen Gorchov, has stated that both verbal and written invectives are becoming increasingly common when his school fails to cover the spread. Winning is no longer good enough if the team doesn’t cover the spread.

“You’ve never really managed the social media accounts of a sports team until you’ve been attacked by gamblers,” Gorchov posted on January 16th, following Hofstra’s 68-47 blowout loss to Towson as 2 ½ point road underdogs. “Today was one of the worst in my time with men’s basketball — and we’ve all had our fair share. Horrible people.”

Dayton men’s basketball head coach Anthony Grant addressed the issue at a postgame presser when he said, “There’s some laws that have recently been enacted that, to me, it could really change the landscape of what college sports is all about. And when we have people that make it about themselves and attack kids because of their own agenda, it sickens me.”

Something Has to Be Done

Mike Buzzelli, the associate director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, was a collegiate athlete and he knows first-hand the stressors of juggling academics with athletics and the mental toll it can take on the student-athletes.

“What can occur when we’re looking at gambling and mental health, so much of it is looking at the gambler,” Buzzelli said. “We’re looking at problematic gambling. We’re looking at addiction, and that’s great [that attention is being paid to that]. That’s the world in which I live. But we do need to think about the people who are being gambled upon.”

“How about while I’m gambling my app says, ‘Hey Mike, still having fun?’ or ‘Mike, were you starting to get a little stressed from that last bet?’” Buzzelli said. “That might then alleviate some of the anger that starts to build up inside of a gambler while they are placing those bets.”

Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor this story and provide updates to our readers as events unfold.