Reid: Betting ban now a longshot
RENO – Sen. Harry Reid has stopped worrying about a ban on college sports betting’s being passed by Congress this year.
”The bill won’t pass out of Congress,” Reid, D-Nev., told The Associated Press on Monday.
”We’ll kill it. I am confident. I wasn’t confident last year but I am now. It has lost support,” he said.
A spokeswoman at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis referred calls to Jane Jankowski, the NCAA’s assistant director for public relations, who was not immediately available for comment.
The NCAA backs the bill that would outlaw wagering on college, high school and Olympic sports. It says gambling pressures young athletes to influence the outcome of games.
Nevada allows wagering on professional and college sports but not on high school and Olympic games. No other state allows wagering on college sports.
Reid said opponents of the ban have been gaining momentum since the Senate Commerce Committee split 10-10 on the bill in early May. He said more senators are questioning whether a ban on college sports betting in Nevada casinos would have any effect on illegal gambling and point-shaving schemes.
”People are starting to understand that 90 percent of gambling done on college sports is bet illegally on college campuses,” Reid said.
”People are beginning to realize it is a big guise to cover the incompetence of the NCAA,” he said.
Reid, the second-ranking member of the Senate, said he expects backers of the idea to try to attach it as an amendment to an appropriations bill. But Reid said he and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., will use their powers to avert a floor vote.
”With Daschle and myself in control now, they can’t do it directly like they did before,” Reid said.
Former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson gave opponents of the ban a boost last week when he criticized the proposal at the annual Associated Press Sports Editors Convention in Baltimore. The Washington Post reported on Thompson’s belief that banning betting in Nevada won’t stop illegal wagering.
”We need to learn how to monitor it, learn how to deal with it,” Thompson said.
”I’m not advocating somebody should (gamble),” he said.
”But it’s foolish to say it’s not a part of our society. If you take it out of Las Vegas, every illegal bookie in this country will still be running books, and every kid that has no supervision will be vulnerable to it,” Thompson said.
Such criticism among coaches is rare. A number of past and present college coaches have been lobbying Congress in support of the ban, including South Carolina football coach Lou Holtz, retired Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler and Georgia State basketball coach Lefty Driesell. On a trip to Capitol Hill last week, they wore buttons with the words, ”Don’t bet on my game.”
Wagering on college sports ”takes away from the very innocence of our game,” Penn State basketball coach Jerry Dunn said.
Reid said other coaches share Thompson’s beliefs.
”But they are afraid to speak out. They are afraid the NCAA will retaliate like it did against (former UNLV Coach Jerry) Tarkanian. The NCAA is very powerful,” Reid said.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the lead sponsors of the betting ban bill, have said they want to force a floor vote by offering it as an amendment, but do not know when they will.
McCain said earlier he has no doubt a majority of senators would support the ban if forced to cast a roll-call vote. But he acknowledged the Senate’s new Democratic leaders might try to block a floor vote.
Aides to the two Republican senators in Washington did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment Monday.
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