Jim Kahler, Ohio University | Sports gambling education – the time has come

In July 2020, Jim Kahler stepped down as executive director of the AECOM Center for Sports Administration at Ohio University, after 15 years in the role. Starting in the 2020-21 academic year, Jim will become the school’s first director of sports gambling education, and writes here about the importance of strong education and partnerships as the betting sector continues to open up in the United States.  

When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was overturned by the US Supreme Court, it created a gold rush within the sports gambling industry. The United States was behind many countries around the world when it came to sports gambling and the opportunity and challenges for sport administrators has only increased the need for executive education in this space.

Jim Kahler (Photo by Ohio University)

Ohio University saw an opportunity to become a change agent when it came to sports gambling education, and quickly formed a strategic alignment with U.S. Integrity and CYANNA Education Services. Collectively, this group has formed a partnership under the name of SportsGamblingEducation.com and recently launched its first in a series of micro courses designed for sport administrators. Our mission was to allow individuals to obtain knowledge, gain confidence and in many cases enact change in and around this $500bn industry.

Sports gambling will only continue to grow and impact the lives of many executives involved with professional and college sports. Multimillion-dollar sponsorship agreements have already positively impacted the bottom line for professional teams in the 20 states that have legalised sports gambling. Companies like Draft Kings, William Hill, BetMGM and Fan Duel have all invested heavily as sports gambling in the United States has come out of the dark ages and days of bookies and offshore accounts.

Marketing executives have found a new instrument to engage with loyal fans as professional sports leagues have all but embraced this new stream of revenue.  The question now becomes: “How do we do this in a responsible manner?”

College athletic administrators need to get up to speed quickly and can no longer let sports gambling education sit at the bottom of a never-ending list of priorities. In 2012, the NCAA commissioned a study on sports gambling that showed 67% of college students had gambled on sports. Today, athletic directors need to be concerned about how sports gambling will impact the mental wellness of their student athletes. Winning a game against your archrival will be taking a back seat to: “Did you cover the spread?”

Ohio University is given credit for being the birthplace of sports business education going back to 1966 when the university created the first ever Master’s in Sports Administration Program. In 2005 the school founded the AECOM Center for Sports Administration to serve as a resource to solve the increasingly difficult issues facing the industry and serve as a platform, bringing together various constituent groups associated with the Sports Administration Program. With sports gambling education becoming a necessity and no longer a luxury, the AECOM Center for Sport Administration drew up a game plan to meet this need and sought to find the right partners. Integrity will become essential for the sports gambling industry to continue to prosper.

Ohio University saw U.S. Integrity as the perfect partner as the organization was founded on the core principal of offering “conflict fee services”. They do not recommend any betting related or risk-management actions and do not distribute event data to operators. Additionally, US Integrity has multiple relationships with licensed, regulated sports books that provide the company access to real betting data. This direct-from-the-source data makes their monitoring system more accurate and provides a closer analysis of betting activity and any possible correlation to other events as a sign of suspicious activity.

Implementing an online education programme on sports gambling can be a real challenge, especially if you need to move fast and get a product to market during a pandemic. CYANNA Education Services has provided Ohio University with a host of services including assistance with course design, software, technology, video production and the ability to meet the expectations and needs that come with executive online education. Their experience in breaking down those brick-and-mortar walls has enabled us the opportunity to create asynchronous courses that line up with the busy schedules of our students.

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