Bob Minnix and his staff have created a campus-wide gambling awareness effort that is gaining national attention.
April 8, 2002
Indianapolis, IN –
BY GARY T. BROWN
THE NCAA NEWS
A new initiative at Florida State University has brought a different perspective to the way NCAA institutions combat the problem of sports wagering.
Developed by Florida State compliance personnel in conjunction with other university administrators and the Florida State Council for Compulsive Gambling, the program targets a campus-wide audience — rather than just athletics — to educate all students about the risks inherent in sports wagering.
Bob Minnix, Florida State’s associate director of athletics for compliance, said the program is designed to take advantage of Florida State’s highly visible athletics program to spread the word about gambling campus wide.
“We can use athletics’ visibility to address the larger issue,” he said. The result, said Minnix, is a cooperative effort on the part of the athletics department and the greater university to address a problem that may be unique to sports but that affects all students.
The effort fell neatly into place shortly after Florida State conducted an anti-gambling symposium in 1996. Minnix and Pat Fowler, who is the executive director of the Florida State Council for Compulsive Gambling, decided that an ongoing partnership between the Council and the university made sense. Added to the mix was Winston Scott, Florida State’s vice-president of student affairs, who agreed that some type of university-wide effort was prudent.
What followed was the establishment of an action team, co-chaired by Pennie Parker, Florida State director of compliance services, and Tanya Tatum, the associate director of the school’s Thagard Student Health Center. The team’s purpose is to facilitate campus-wide awareness.
That is being done in part through a public service announcement that uses Florida State student-athletes who speak against sports wagering. The PSA was shown before all of Florida State’s home men’s basketball games and will be played on the scoreboard before Florida State football games next fall.
Also, thousands of colorful bookmarks with a 24-hour problem gambling helpline were funded by the Council and distributed through various campus outlets, including libraries and computer labs, to attract students’ attention. The university also brought in Deana Garner from the NCAA’s agent, amateurism and gambling activities staff to speak to administrative and student groups, and more workshop activities are being planned that target other campus constituencies.
“We’re trying to get the information out that help is available,” Parker said. “Problem gambling is a hidden disorder. There are no visible signs that someone has a gambling problem. They don’t fall down on the street, you can’t smell it on their breath, you can’t see it in their eyes. So many people have it and don’t get help.”
The NCAA’s Bill Saum, who is the director of the agent, amateurism and gambling activities staff, said he appreciates Florida State’s efforts and hopes that the program will serve as a model for other schools to follow.
“There is a momentum shift at campuses across the country and a grass-roots effort to hold seminars and workshops to focus campus-wide attention to the sports-wagering problem,” Saum said. “Our coaches and ADs have been engaged in this matter for a number of years, but we’re starting to see the student-life and Greek-life folks — as well as college presidents — become engaged.
“At Florida State, Bob and Pennie have taken the sports-wagering issue and turned it into a campus-wide issue. They’ve been able to engage the president and the vice-president for student affairs to the point where they are giving attention to the topic.”
Saum said that kind of attention continues to assist in answering those who say the NCAA doesn’t educate student-athletes about sports wagering.
“Our athletics departments have been engaged in this from day one and they have spent the last two years working to get the entire campus involved, and we’re starting to see the fruits of that labor,” he said.
Saum agreed that the university-wide approach is the right way to go.
“We’ve been focusing on athletes, but they’re living with other students who are placing bets,” he said. “So it makes sense that we address the entire campus.”
Minnix said the access all students have to credit cards and, in turn, to online gambling outlets, warrants a campus-wide educational campaign.
“Here on campus, credit cards are like jelly beans — you can get a credit card faster than you can get a book,” said the former chair of the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct. “People need to know that there is help available for those who have a problem.”
The program already has been honored with a special recognition award from the Council for outstanding contribution in creative ideas in dealing with gambling awareness.
“The fact that the athletics department can work side by side with the university and health officials sets the program apart,” Minnix said.
NCAA President Cedric W. Dempsey said programs such as Florida State’s are keys to diffusing a problem that continues to threaten the health of intercollegiate athletics.
Dempsey said institutions must “guard against the invasion of the illegal bookie that has become a cottage industry on virtually every campus in the Association or the Internet gambling that takes place in the privacy of a dorm room.”
Dempsey noted that law enforcement officials believe that student bookie operations exist at every institution of higher education in all three divisions.
“The very thing that every athletics administrator fears the most,” Dempsey said, “is the bookie who entices a student-athlete to wager and is living as a parasite within the comfortable confines of the college campus.
“No matter how significant the resources brought by the national office to this issue, the war must be waged on the campus.”
At Florida State, they’re taking the fight campus wide.
How to identify the problem
Following are eight questions that should be asked to help determine whether an illegal gambling problem exists on campus. For more information on the sports-wagering issue, go to NCAA Online (www.ncaa.org) under Education Outreach and click on “Gambling/Sports Wagering.”
* Do your students, staff and faculty understand that bookmaking is an illegal activity and is not acceptable on your campus?
* Do your campus police know your position on campus bookmaking and your expectations for engaging and pursuing the problem?
* Have you asked your campus police what their informants say about the amount of sports wagering that is going on?
* Have you taken a hard look at reports of assault on campus? Physical intimidation and assault are typical ways bookmakers try to collect from bettors who haven’t paid.
* Are your campus police involved with local authorities who are developing information about bookmaking at local sports bars and other establishments frequented by students?
* Have you checked campus newspapers for Internet gambling advertisements?
* Have you checked public campus computers to see if wagering sites are bookmarked?
* Have you asked your student services personnel, residence hall advisors, campus police and athletics administrators to report regularly on what they have learned and what they are doing about illegal sports wagering on your campus?