SBJ/February 21 - 27, 2000/No Topic Name

Senate bill shields Nevada sports books

The mushrooming debate on Capitol Hill over college sports and gambling escalated last week with a bill that counters recent NCAA-supported legislation to outlaw legal wagering on amateur athletics in Nevada.

On Feb. 10, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced a bill that aims to stop the earlier proposal that would prohibit Nevada sports books from accepting wagers on college sports. The Reid bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.) and supported by the American Gaming Association, is pushing for the Justice Department to study illegal sports betting and find ways to better enforce current laws that prohibit college sports gambling in every state but Nevada.

The Reid legislation runs counter to the NCAA-supported bill introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). That bill not only aims to end legal wagering on college sports, but supporters said it also would help reduce illegal betting on college sports because the ban eventually would drive newspapers away from publishing point spreads on college games.

Last year, Nevada casinos took in $2.3 billion in college sports wagers, and according to a 1998 National Gaming Impact Study Commission report, some $380 million is illegally wagered on college sports annually.

The NCAA uses a University of Cincinnati study to show how pervasive college gambling has become at Division I schools. According to the study of 648 Division I men's basketball and football players, 25.5 percent had gambled on other college sporting events, 3.7 percent had gambled on a game in which they had played, and 0.5 percent received money from a gambler for not playing well in a game.

Reid, a former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, thinks the real problem lies not in Nevada casinos but in ineffective enforcement of illegal sports betting.

NCAA officials point to the two-year National Gaming Impact Study, which also recommended that all betting on college sports be banned, and said that another study would simply delay the recommended ban.

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