Senate panel opposes bid to outlaw bets on college sports


CARSON CITY – A state Senate panel voted Monday to urge Congress not to outlaw bets on college sports, which are a major part of Nevada’s legal sports betting industry.

”We don’t need any more dumb laws that we aren’t going to be able to enforce,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Mark James, R-Las Vegas, said after his committee unanimously passed AJR2.

”By outlawing sports betting, it’ll be making criminals out of people who are otherwise law-abiding citizens. It’s a silly notion that they’re not going to (bet).”

The NCAA has been lobbying Congress to pass a law banning all betting on college and amateur sports on grounds legal and illegal wagering threaten the integrity of every college game.

Reps. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Tim Roemer, D-Ind., said they will offer a bill as early as Tuesday, to prohibit Nevada casinos from taking bets on college games.

The NCAA and some high-profile coaches add that point-shaving is the best example of how college sports betting ruins games.

But Nevada lawmakers say that the NCAA’s efforts are merely diverting the NCAA from doing its job – cracking down on illegal betting. Nevada is the only state where legal sports wagering takes place.

”The NCAA may feel some guilt about their ineptitude in dealing with sports wagering,” James said. ”By encouraging Congress to enforce this law, it’s good PR for them. It makes them look like they’re doing something when they’re really not.”

Legislators estimate that legal sports betting represents less than 1 percent, or $2.5 billion, of an estimated $350 billion bet around the nation every year on sports. One-fourth of Nevada bets involve college games.

Alfredo Alonso of the Nevada Resort Association said that the NCAA has stepped up its campaign on Capitol Hill during March Madness – the annual collegiate basketball tournament.

”If they want to pursue illegal wagering, they should stop badgering the only jurisdiction in the country that regulates it,” he said.

Lawmakers in favor of AJR2 say that Nevada’s strict regulation of legal sports gambling prevents point-shaving from happening more often.

They argue that NCAA efforts to ban sports betting would eliminate Nevada’s watchdog role in the process.

”The problem is going to be worse by taking away the one legal arm they have here,” Sen. Jon Porter, R-Henderson said. ”We’re not part of the problem. We are a part of the solution. We don’t agree with their solution.”

Porter also said that the NCAA is using Nevada as a scapegoat for its inadequacies.

”They’re looking for feel-good legislation so they’ll be able to go back to Congress and say they did something about the problem of illegal sports wagering.”

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