Lawson's gambling raises eyebrows

April 3, 2009 11:50:24 AM PDT
UNC's Ty Lawson hit a casino hours after arriving in Detroit for the Final Four contest and won.The North Carolina guard told reporters he played craps.

"We got in last night, and Coach (Roy Williams) gave us a curfew of 1:30," Lawson said when asked if he had visited any casinos. "I went over to Greektown and won about $250. So I already had my time there. It's probably the last time I go there before the games start."

Lawson - who's 21 - said it wasn't the first time he's taken part in legal gambling.

"The only time I lost was in Reno; that's when everybody on the team lost," he said. "It's the only place I lost. The other five or six times I did gamble, I won at least $500."

While there's nothing technically wrong with what Lawson did, the NCAA would prefer student athletes don't gamble. It's sensitive to the issue after past points shaving scandals, and doesn't want there to be any perceived link to players and betting. Still, the only outright prohibition under NCAA rules is that players don't bet on college and professional sports.

"Well, I warn against that slippery slope. It's a fair question," said NCAA president Myles Brand, who was not asked specifically about Lawson. "What a student does, play bingo in his church for example, while we discourage that, we prefer not to try and regulate that particular kind of activity. But it's highly discouraged."

UNC officials are downplaying the incident. Team spokesman Steve Kirschner pointed out the 21-year-old is legally of age to visit a casino.

"I'm just amazed that people are going to make a big deal about it," Kirschner said.

Calls to fellow Final Four participants Villanova, Connecticut and Michigan State regarding whether their players have visited casinos or were prohibited from going were not immediately returned. The teams play in the national semifinals Saturday night.

In February, the Caesars Windsor casino in Canada said it would support the NCAA's request to suspend betting on men's Division I basketball for one week ending with Monday's national championship game. The casino is located across the Detroit River from Detroit; casinos in Michigan and most other states are banned from offering sports wagers.

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