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  • Peterson: Legal sports gambling is here. The next move should be allowing athletes to market themselves.

Peterson: Legal sports gambling is here. The next move should be allowing athletes to market themselves.

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Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard updates fans on construction projects around Jack Trice Stadium
Randy Peterson, rpeterson@dmreg.com

Add the Iowa gaming industry to the list of conglomerates legitimately making money off college student-athletes.

Colleges make millions of dollars off its sports teams. Television networks do the same. The NCAA? Billions.

And now that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill allowing the ability to legally bet on sporting events in our state, Iowa’s sanctioned gaming business joins the list.

Wagering a few bucks on Cy-Hawk football is finally OK in the eyes of our lawmakers. The first big betting day will be the Sept. 14 game at Jack Trice Stadium. Winners will bolster their entertainment budget. Casinos will profit.

But the players?

Zilch.

Scholarship college athletes already receive tuition, a cost of attendance stipend and benefits that include academic tutors and national exposure to the games they play. That’s all well and good, but now it’s time for the next bold move. It’s time to give student-athletes the right to make money off their name, their likeness and their image.

On the street, they simply call it paying athletes. Actually, it’s allowing athletes to sell themselves.

If a quarterback wants to sign autographs for a local auto dealer after starring in a game, then allow the athlete the right to do it. If the softball pitching wiz wants to see if she can make money selling t-shirts with her name and her picture and a big “K” on the front, then give her the right to do that, too.

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Give the option to the athletes. Let them figure it out, as long as it’s within guidelines that must be established by the NCAA, and as long as they’re prepared to pay taxes on the money they make.

Preposterous?

Maybe, but the conversation will kick up again now that legalized gambling is in Iowa and picking up steam elsewhere. There have been 11 states to already legalize it. Nothing is stopping gamblers from states where bills haven’t passed — like Minnesota, Illinois and Nebraska — from crossing our borders.

The topic even came up at the first stop of the Cyclones Tailgate Tour on Monday afternoon in Audubon. Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard and football coach Matt Campbell both addressed various aspects of legal sports betting — just a few hours before Reynolds signed the bill.

“It’s a change. We’re going to have to watch it and figure out how to deal with it,” Pollard said. “But also, the world’s not going to end because they’re doing it.”

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The bill has been on Reynolds’ desk since the end of the Legislative session. She finally approved it almost exactly one year after the U.S. Supreme Court made its landmark decision allowing states the right to legalize sports wagering.

“Ten years from now, who knows, maybe there will be kiosks and you can do it inside a facility,” Pollard said. “Right now, that’s not the case — I think that’s good to slow-play it.”

Legal sports gambling will be operational by late August, just in time for the start of the college football season. It should be up and running at a high level in time for Iowa vs. Iowa State.

And now there’s this question: Will coaches be forced to provide participation reports 48 hours or so before the game? Instead of illegal bookmakers obtaining underground intel on injuries, will coaches be expected to make playing information more transparent?

“As long as there’s uniformity to it — at some point, it probably is coming,” Campbell said. “Whatever we decide that legally takes it out of our hands and the trainers’ hands — and as long as there’s one uniform way … it’s probably good.”

It’s also good to continue the discussion about paying athletes as the landscape changes when it comes to sports betting.

Will they eventually have the right to earn money off their name, likeness and image? What happens if some discover they’re not worth as much as they think they’re worth?

They at least deserve the right to test the market.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at rpeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter at @RandyPete.

Source: Des Moines Register