Today’s vote in the Senate Commerce Committee exposed the NCAA’s bill for what it is: an empty symbol in the face of a serious national problem, that of illegal gambling on college campuses. U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.) is to be commended for his principled defense of Nevada and for exposing the hypocrisy of the NCAA.
Sens. Bryan and John Breaux (D-La.) offered their colleagues not one, but a series of opportunities to deal directly with this problem comprehensively and nationwide. The committee rejected:
- Making 21 the minimum legal age to gamble nationwide, as recommended by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission;
- Requiring the NCAA and its members to establish a dedicated funding source for programs that would combat problems caused by illegal student gambling;
- Requiring colleges to implement programs to reduce illegal gambling by students and employees to be coordinated by a full-time senior official at each college;
- Requiring colleges to establish ‘zero tolerance’ policies for illegal gambling by students, including denial of student aid to those who engage in illegal gambling; and
- Requiring all alcohol-related advertising revenues to be used for alcohol, drug and gambling abuse prevention programs.
The rejection of these amendments demonstrates the hypocrisy that has dominated this issue from the start. The committee rushed to judgment just weeks after a hearing at which there were no witnesses from law enforcement, the NCAA staff, or the compulsive gambling treatment community. If it had a real interest in cracking down on gambling on amateur sports, the committee would have shown its support for any and all measures that actually would address this problem.
Instead, they have chosen the easy way out, approving a measure that singles out one state - despite the fact that there is no link between the legal sports books in Nevada and illegal gambling on college campuses - while absolving the NCAA and its member institutions from any responsibility for a problem that exists on their own campuses. We can only hope that if this matter reaches the floor of the Senate, a majority of the senators will base their vote on facts, not rhetoric.