Trends in NCAA Student-Athlete Gambling Behaviors and Attitudes

Research and Data
Author(s): NCAA
Year Published: 2017


Over the course of 4 study iterations (2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016), more than 84,000 NCAA student-athletes across all three NCAA divisions were surveyed about their attitudes toward and engagement in different forms of gambling.


Quantitative Data Highlights

  • 55% of NCAA men in the 2016 study reported gambling for money within the past year.
  • 35% of NCAA men (13% of NCAA women) gamblers have ever lost more than $50 in a day.
  • 12% of NCAA men (31% of NCAA women) first gambled in college.
Sports wagering in violation of NCAA sports wagering bylaws:
  • 24% of NCAA men (5% of NCAA women) reported violating NCAA bylaws within the previous year by wagering on sports for money.
    • 1/3 of NCAA men (15% of NCAA women) who reported wagering on sports in the 2016 survey placed bets electronically.
    • 65% of NCAA men (44% of NCAA women) who bet on sports in the past year bet on the NFL (top sports wagering target for both men and women).
    • 20% of NCAA men (2% of NCAA women) in the 2016 study reported having played in fantasy leagues with an entry fee and prize money during the past year (similar to what was seen in the 2008 and 2012 surveys).
    • 11% of NCAA men (2% NCAA women) surveyed in 2016 said they had recently played daily or weekly online fantasy sports contests for money (these participants overlapped substantially with those who reported playing season-long fantasy games).
    • 76% of NCAA men (82% of NCAA women) are aware of the sports wagering rules in Division I (vs 68% of NCAA men and 64% of NCAA women in Division III).
  • More than 25% of NCAA student-athletes are uncomfortable that people bet on college sports.
  • More than 50% of NCAA student-athletes do not think gambling entities should advertise at college sporting events or during college sports telecasts.


Identified Risk Factors

  • Identifying as an NCAA man.
  • Targeted marketing.


Identified Protective Factors

  • Media literacy.


Qualitative Data Highlights

  • Participation in most gambling activities decreased among all student-athletes despite the expansion of land-based and online gambling opportunities during this time.
  • Rates of playing in fantasy leagues with an entry fee and prize money in 2016 are similar to what was seen in the 2008 and 2012 surveys.
  • Student-athlete gambling debts are a well-being concern, but also a worry for potential vulnerability to outside gambling influences.
  • Women engage in nearly all gambling activities at much lower rates than men.
  • For men, although playing cards for money was the most common gambling entry point for current NCAA men, we are increasingly seeing sports wagering being cited as their first gambling activity.
  • Division I men’s basketball and football players continue to be seen by gamblers as important potential sources for information that can provide a betting edge.
Gaming and Gambling
  • NCAA students continue to report engaging in some form of simulated gambling activity via social media sites, videogame consoles or mobile devices.
  • These games are being increasingly marketed toward youth.


Identified Challenges

  • 54% of NCAA men (31% of NCAA women) think sports wagering is a harmless pastime.
    • These figures are substantially higher among those NCAA men (76%) and NCAA women (61%) who wager on sports.
    • 50% of NCAA men who bet on sports think they can consistently make a lot of money on the activity.
      • They also feel that many others violate NCAA wagering bylaws.
      • 25% believe coaches do not take these rules seriously.


Identified Actions

  • Continued enhancements and innovations in educational programming are necessary to protect student-athlete well-being and contest fairness.
  • These NCAA athletic programs should
    • help all involved in NCAA athletics recognize risk factors associated with problem gambling,
    • provide up-to-date information on the science and technology of gambling and sports wagering (e.g., betting lines are set using a great deal of data/research; gamblers can easily reach student-athletes through social media), and
    • promote strategies for discussing perceptions and normative expectations associated with gambling/wagering (e.g., being an athlete does not necessarily mean one has the insight required to make money wagering on sports, as many student-athletes believe).


Read Full Research Article


NCAA. (2017, November). Trends in NCAA Student-Athlete Gambling Behaviors and Attitudes. National Collegiate Athletic Association4. 

Further Reading