Over 128 Division I schools and hundreds of others took the field last weekend, signaling that after a nearly eight-month hiatus, college football is finally back.
Gambling on college football is, too.
Some Ole Miss students are using websites and third-party “bookies” to place their bets on everything from the final score of the game to what the singer of the national anthem will be wearing. (The students are being identified only by their first names.)
Nathan, an economics major, said he uses an out-of-state, third-party bookie who places all his wagers for him.
“He’s a physical person who sets up shop and holds the records and everyone’s cash, basically like a honeypot of money, and he’s the one that distributes the winnings and basically controls everything,” he said. “Basically, it’s his own system. You have to really trust him because they could take your money and run with it.”
Other students use websites to place their wagers. Tyler, a general business student, uses a website with an anonymous username given to him by another user.
“A friend asked me if I wanted to do sports betting, and he just had a guy that sets you up. The guy just sends you your information, your username and your password,” he said. Tyler said he has to renew his account information every year.
The amount wagered can vary, and students have reported wagering up to $80 on a game or match.
“It depends on the match-up, but if it’s like this weekend, I would put like $40 or $60 just because it’s two close teams so your winnings are going to be pretty profitable,” Tyler said. He said he’s won $200 on a boxing match by betting against the odds.
While many Ole Miss students admit to participating in online sports gambling, there is confusion among participants about the legality of it.
Ben, a finance major, said he only gambles on websites he believes to be operated by state-approved books and casinos.
“The laws are not very clear, but it is not illegal to wager online in the state of Mississippi, operating an online sports book is,” Ben said.
Other students said that they knew online sports betting was illegal and that it didn’t bother them.
Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC), said that while some types of on-site gambling is legal, using the internet to gamble on sports is not.
“All kinds of online gambling in the state of Mississippi are illegal,” Godfrey said, though he recognized that many college-age students do use the web to wager on sports illegally.
According to MGC regulations, sports gambling on a mobile device requires that wagers be placed within a facility approved by the executive director for mobile gaming. Approved facilities include any area within the property boundaries of a casino that has been determined legal for gambling by the MGC.
Eleven states currently host legal, active sports wagering. Mississippi, although included in these 11, only allows sports betting on-site in casinos. Six states have legalized sports betting online.
On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which outlawed sports betting nationwide, violated the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Sports wagering is popular with Ole Miss students, and those who participate report different reasons for placing their bets.
Nathan said he bet on sports for fun and entertainment purposes, while other students said that having money on games makes the boring games more interesting.
Considering the recent performance of the Ole Miss football team, students said they are less likely to bet on the Rebels doing well in games.
“I would bet against Ole Miss. I bet against them for this past game (against Memphis),” Nathan said.
Students said their loyalty to the Rebels doesn’t affect whether they would wager against them.
“I try to be as unbiased as possible when making wagers, so the performance of the football team hasn’t affected my willingness to wager on an Ole Miss game,” Ben said.