The American Gaming Association (AGA) and its member companies strongly support meaningful efforts to eliminate illegal sports gambling on college campuses. The legislation introduced today, however, has much to do with appearances and absolutely nothing to do with addressing the very real problem of illegal student gambling. While well intentioned, the bill amounts to an ineffective band-aid on a campus cancer.
The AGA shares the concerns of college presidents and coaches about the widespread illegal sports gambling on college campuses - and for good reason. The NCAA admits that illegal student bookies on almost all NCAA member campuses are taking bets from NCAA member institutions’ students on NCAA-sanctioned games. In addition, there is widespread illegal sports gambling off campus. A national problem of this magnitude demands far-reaching countermeasures, as this betting has been illegal for more than eight years.
Were prohibitory legislation sufficient to stop it, illegal college sports gambling would not be as severe as it is nationwide today, despite enactment of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act almost a decade ago in 1992. Regrettably, the bill introduced today only addresses the narrow legal issue of Nevada’s ‘grandfather’ status under that federal statute.
According to law enforcement and other authorities, as much as $380 billion is wagered annually on sports in this country. By contrast, less than 1 percent of that wagering takes place in Nevada, where it is regulated, policed and taxed. Only individuals 21 and older and physically present in Nevada may place a wager. There is no correlation, causal or otherwise, between legal wagering in Nevada and unlawful conduct on college campuses. In fact, if the proposed legislation were to pass, an important tool for law enforcement would be eliminated. Recent point-shaving scandals have been brought to the attention of the FBI by Nevada’s legal sports books when unusual betting patterns were detected.
The question is whether the narrow legislation introduced today would do anything to alleviate the significant problem at hand. We strongly contend that today’s legislation will not make the slightest dent in illegal sports wagering. Instead, a more comprehensive strategy is warranted and long overdue. By definition, such a strategy must be centered around steps for the NCAA and its members to implement.
Congress should examine why the 1992 Act has not achieved its objectives, including the apparent lack of effective law enforcement on and off campus. Only then can Congress bring all affected parties to the table, including the NCAA, and determine the best course of action. In the meantime, there is no rational basis to single out legal sports books in Nevada given the lack of any nexus between their regulated operations and rampant illegal gambling on college campuses.