Vegas and football unite
Week zero in college football brought smiles from rejoiceful fans, highlight plays from dazzling athletes, and… slot machines.
That’s right, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) linebacker Austin Ajiake only needed six minutes and 29 seconds to snag an interception off the Idaho State quarterback, en route to a 52-21 win, which he then celebrated by trotting over to and ripping a slot machine on the sideline.
The jubilant theatrics went viral at a moment’s notice and further showed how far gambling has penetrated sports entertainment.
UNLV steals the show
UNLV debuted the slot machine in 2021 against Utah State and caught the eyes of many. However, this past weekend’s episode drew even more attention because of the sparse game schedule. Many of the big teams don’t suit up until this coming weekend, leaving room for less notable programs like UNLV to make headlines.
The Rebels have struggled to make any significant headway on their own, having recorded only losing seasons since 2013. They have also managed just two winning seasons since 1995.
stuck with the roots of Las Vegas and provided a great spectacle
What UNLV may lack in the finished product, however, they more than made up for with their sideline prop. Spinning the slot machine stuck with the roots of Las Vegas and provided a great spectacle for all fans.
Using props as part of celebrations is not new to the NCAA. The University of Miami Hurricanes only recently retired their “turnover chain,” a hunky piece of golden neckwear that was bestowed upon any player who managed to steal an extra possession for his offense. In 2018, the Boise State Broncos rolled out the “turnover throne,” which similarly memorialized defensive players who forced the opposition to cough up the pigskin.
None of the trailblazers, though, dared to cross-pollinate college football and gambling the way that UNLV did – and despite the brilliant showmanship, the NCAA could have a serious debacle on its hands.
Slot machine next to be banned?
Current NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from gambling in any form. NCAA bylaw 10.3 specifically forbids sports gambling, a rapidly growing sector within the wagering community.
Furthermore, the governing body of college athletics has been mixing it up— much to the disappointment of fans— with teams. Earlier this year, the Virginia Tech “Hammerin’” Hokies’ baseball team was forced to abandon its trademark swing-of-a-sledgehammer in front of its dugout after every home run their team hit.
NCAA baseball secretary Randy Bruns defended the decision by stating that “any orchestrated activities by dugout personnel designed to distract, intimidate, or disconcert the opposing team or reflect poor sportsmanship shall not be allowed.”
So, while a slot machine may not be intimidating or disconcerting to a majority of people, it could certainly be classified as ”distracting,” thereby leaving the NCAA with another situation to monitor.
On top of that, the general response has not been entirely positive. Certain fans have questioned why UNLV would promote gambling to a broad audience so irresponsibly, and others why young adults are being made the face of gambling.
UNLV’s once-famous basketball team has joined its football team in recent irrelevance, so gimmicks such as the turnover slot machine are crucial for the school’s marketing. Whether or not any serious and long-term decisions are made remains to be seen.
Sports betting is still illegal or inoperative in roughly one-third of all states, which heightens the stakes even further.
The Rebels continue their flamboyant campaign on September 10 with a showdown against the California Golden Bears.