Senator McCain takes on college betting |

Senator McCain takes on college betting

Gary Kank

After successfully defeating the opposition on campaign finance reform, Arizona Sen. John McCain introduced legislation last week that would ban betting on college sports in Nevada.

“I am renewing my effort to finally close the ‘Las Vegas Loophole’ that transforms student athletes into objects to be bet upon.” McCain stated. “Adding unwarranted pressure from corrupting influences to the pressures that these intensely competitive young people already feel is unacceptable.”

McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced the Amateur Sports Integrity Act to Capitol Hill on Thursday. If passed, the bill would make it illegal to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license or authorize any type of gambling on amateur sports. Nevada is the only state which takes wagers on amateur events.

McCain said he tentatively plans to hold a hearing on the bill in his Commerce Committee meeting on April 26. A vote will likely occur on the measure a week after the hearing.

In an attempt to quash the efforts of McCain, Nevada’s senators are working hard on a strategy to defeat the NCAA-backed bill. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., also a member of the Commerce Committee, has been lobbying other members in an attempt to defeat the bill in committee where their chances of victory are much better than on the Senate floor.

“This legislation is ill-advised and ill-conceived,” said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. “If it becomes law, it will open up a Pandora’s box that would have repercussions in Nevada and throughout the country.

Opponents of McCain’s bill argue the repercussions point to the elimination of Nevada’s watchdog role in illegal wagering scams such as point shaving, where illegal bookies pay off amateur athletes before a game in order to get them to purposely influence the outcome. The oponents also addressed the benefits this bill would afford to the thriving Internet-based gambling sites and campus bookies that take amateur wagers daily.

A similar bill was introduced in Congress March 20 by Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Tim Roemer, D-Ind. It is heading to the House Judiciary Committee.

In light of the recently introduced legislation, Nevada lawmakers think the NCAA should focus less on the sports books and more on themselves.

“If the NCAA is sincere about protecting the integrity of athletes, they should spend their considerable resources addressing illegal gambling and improving the graduate rates of college athletes.” Reid added.

So it appears after a preseason of “warm ups” and congressional “scrimmages,” McCain and Nevada are ready to square off in a committee title match this month that is sure to go down to the wire.

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