The gaming industry opponents are at it again. Last year’s attempt to ban legal, taxed and regulated college sports betting in Nevada was a legislative failure, but a few members of Congress can’t seem to leave well enough alone.
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reintroduced the Amateur Sports Integrity Act (S. 718) this spring, and U.S. Reps. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) reintroduced a companion bill (H.R. 1110) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation is supported by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and touted by some as a solution to illegal betting on college sports. Unfortunately, the legislation does nothing to combat this problem.
Thanks to the work of the American Gaming Association (AGA) and its citizen action group, Americans for Casino Entertainment (ACE), working in concert with the Nevada congressional delegation, more members of Congress than ever are seeing the legislation for what it really is – an opportunity for the NCAA to misplace the blame for the real problem of illegal sports wagering that takes place on college campuses across the country.
At a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the legislation, several expert witnesses testified that the legislation could actually make the problem worse by eliminating Nevada’s current regulatory oversight of wagering and stimulating an even larger underground market for sports-related gambling.
In anticipation of the hearing, ACE members used their Web site to send hundreds of letters to members of Congress delivering the truth and facts about S. 718. ACE members urged their representatives to oppose the legislation and instead support the National Collegiate and Amateur Athletic Protection Act of 2001 (S. 338/H.R. 641), alternative legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), U.S. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and other senators. S. 338/H.R. 641 would address the real problem of illegal gambling by increasing penalties on illegal betting, establishing a prosecutorial task force, and mandating the study of betting behavior among minors and on college campuses. Sen. McCain’s bill offers no such solutions.
ACE’s efforts have been largely successful so far. At the committee markup of Sen. McCain’s bill, an amendment proposed by Sen. Ensign that would have eliminated the portion of the legislation banning college sports betting in Nevada resulted in a tie vote (10-10) among members. Although the tie was not enough to add the amendment to the bill, it sent a clear message that there is widespread bipartisan skepticism and opposition to the NCAA’s efforts. Last year, the bill sailed through committee on a 17-2 vote, making this year’s tie all the more significant. The tie shows that the proposed ban is not the slam-dunk the NCAA and its supporters have claimed.
More recently, additional groups have weighed in on the issue. The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a group of college and university presidents and business and athletic leaders, released a report stating that America’s colleges and universities are placing a higher premium on the potential revenues from college sports than on their responsibility to provide student athletes with a quality education.
It seems ironic that the NCAA can afford to spend $6 billion to broadcast the men’s division I basketball tournament on CBS but fails to invest significant funds to address campus problems of illegal gambling on those very same games.
Even John Thompson, the legendary former men’s basketball coach at Georgetown University, recognizes the faults in the NCAA’s legislation.
“If you illegalize college sports gambling in Nevada, you’re not going to stop it,” he said. “We need to learn how to monitor it, learn how to deal with it…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.”
Even with Sen. Reid ascending to the No. 2 post in the Senate, where he has considerable control over what bills are considered on the floor, we know that Sen. McCain will not relent in his crusade against the gaming industry. The AGA will be ready when that challenge comes. But ACE members will continue to serve as an integral part of our success. If you’d like to help deliver the message that Nevada casinos shouldn’t shoulder the blame for a problem the NCAA is unwilling to properly address, log on to www.aceaction.com and help. The American public values its freedom to enjoy the legal entertainment option offered by Nevada sports books and will fight to defend that right.