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Betting bill doesn’t address real problem

Although it’s a noble effort to clean up college sports betting, the methods being proposed by the NCAA and U.S. senators are tantamount to extinguishing the Martis Fire near Reno with a garden hose.

Does the NCAA and senators such as John McCain, Jesse Helms and Dick Durbin really believe that sports wagering on college campuses will disappear if wagering on amateur sports is abolished in Nevada? While they’re at it, why not shut down Internet and send the kids off to college with calculators instead of computers?

Internet has made illegal offshore books easily accessible, requiring students to only possess a credit card. Now, if you make it illegal to own a credit card until someone is 22 …



But it’s interesting that this battle to make Nevada follow in line with the rest of the country has lasted this long. After all, the NCAA’s billion-dollar TV contracts can be partly attributed to the rising number of people betting on college sports. More and more fans are watching college games to find out if they win or lose their wagers.

Moreover, the way betting is so deeply woven into our society, why should the government stop with eliminating amateur sports betting in Nevada? Why not do away with lotteries, horse racing, office pools and fantasy leagues while they’re at it?



The college lines that Las Vegas spits out for Nevada’s 100-plus sports books tempt college athletes and students to fix games, the 16-month-old bill’s supporters say. Without them, they say the temptation wouldn’t exist.

“There would still be lines out there. A lot of offshore books in Costa Rica and Jamaica are coming up with their own lines as well as illegal bookies,” said Will Gilliam, a sportsbook supervisor at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. “There will be an illegal bookies’ heaven if that happens.”

“It’s so easy to set up an offshore account that they don’t even need Nevada,” said Dave Probert, director of full-service games at Harveys Resort Hotel & Casino. “What is interesting about Nevada is that you physically have to be here to place a bet. There is phone wagering, but you have to be in Nevada to make the call.”

The sad part is that the NCAA doesn’t share any of its enormous profits with its performers. If the athletes received a share of the profits, they wouldn’t be as inclined to throw games.

When is the last time a pro athlete threw a game? Was it the Black Sox scandal? NFL legends Alex Karras and Paul Hornung bet on their own games, as did former Reds manager Pete Rose. But fixing games at the pro level has been pretty uncommon. With salaries soaring to higher levels than what owners paid for their teams, there is no temptation to influence the outcome of games.

That temptation, however, was there in the 1990s for Arizona State basketball and Boston College football players – the most recent in a long line of college athletes to shave points.

In what appears as almost a last-ditch effort this week, the NCAA is sending the old guard to Capitol Hill to sway some votes their way. Among them are Bo Schembechler, Lou Holtz, Bill Guthridge and Lefty Driesell.

What the NCAA should do, says Probert, is police its campuses for illegal books like the counterproposal senators Harry Reid and John Ensign are pedaling in D.C.

“It doesn’t make any sense to eliminate legal sports wagering to address illegal sports wagering somewhere else,” Probert said.

Even though the proposed death-to-college-sports-betting bill has lost its momentum, longtime employees at Nevada books still are on edge.

“We’re all concerned about it and talk a lot about it,” said Gilliam, a 14-year sports book employee. “We’re glad senators like Ensign and Reid are fighting it and supporting us.”

Probert says Harveys would likely lose 25-to-30 percent of its business if the bill becomes a law.

“Some of that money would go to pro sports, but definitely a large proportion of that money to the book volume,” Probert said. “It would affect the whole club, most noticeably would be the March Madness Tournament. That’s a very good business to have that tournament at that time of the year.”

Added Gilliam, “You’d no longer see sports books as they are today. We’d still be a year-round business but at a smaller scale.”

You can bet on that!


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