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Betting Operator To Meet With McCain

4 August 2000

by Jace Radke

Vic Salerno says he was floored when he got a call from state Sen. Jon Porter at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia explaining that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would probably be at Salerno's house next week.

Salerno, president of American Wagering Inc., which operates more than 40 sports books in Nevada casinos, says he can't believe he may get the chance to talk to McCain, who co-sponsored a bill that would outlaw betting on college sports.

"I'd talked to Jon Porter about how I'd like to tell our side of the story to the senator, and he said he'd see what he could do," Salerno said. "I didn't think much about it until Porter called me, and then I had to pick myself up off the floor.

Porter's spokesman, Josh Griffin, confirmed that McCain has agreed to come to Las Vegas next week to help raise funds for Porter's campaign for Rep. Shelley Berkley's congressional seat.

Salerno says he is looking forward to the opportunity to talk to McCain about the proposed betting ban and what it would do to people in Nevada.

"I'd like to get some sports book operators over to talk with him and explain that this doesn't involve just casino owners," Salerno said. "We go to work just like anyone else."

McCain, who sponsored the betting legislation along with Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is a longtime supporter of legalized gambling, but made betting on college sports one of his first issues after failing to become the Republican nominee for president and returning to the Senate.

In a statement while promoting the ban McCain said, "Betting on college and amateur sports corrupts the integrity of competition and places our young athletes at the mercy of bookies and bettors."

Professional gamblers, sports book operators, the casino industry and Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Bryan have fought against the bill saying that it focuses on the state's legal and tightly regulated gambling industry instead of addressing the real problem of illegal wagering.

On July 25 McCain and Brownback attempted to set up a vote on the issue, but were blocked by Reid and Bryan. Nevada's senators say that the Senate calender is nearly full, and that the betting ban likely won't be brought back until next year.

Salerno says he doesn't know if a meeting with McCain will change the senator's mind on the ban, but he says he will make the effort.

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