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Kevin Smith

Oregon Legislators Move to Ban Sports Lottery

25 May 2005

The powerful influence of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was felt last week in Oregon as the state's House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that would abolish a state lottery game based on sports betting.

The lottery game, "Sports Action," (along with a companion game called "Scoreboard") enables players to bet on the outcomes of professional football games and has long been cited as the main reason why the NCAA has passed up Oregon when considering host cities for major events.

The bill, HB 3466, passed the House on a 51-0 vote and was sent to the Senate for consideration.

Launched in 1989 and sanctioned by the Oregon State Lottery, Sports Action has helped increase funding to athletic departments at the state's seven public universities without adding burden to the state budget.

A similar bill introduced to the House in 1999 died in committee; however, the idea of banning the game is more palatable now that the state has legalized video slot machines. Rep. Kevin Cameron, R-Salem, pointed out during House debate on HB 3466 that video slots have bolstered the lottery's Administrative Services Economic Development Fund, 1 percent of which would go toward replacing the funds raised by Sports Action (as prescribed by the bill). He also said that proceeds from Sports Action going to colleges have declined in recent years.

"It gives us a chance at a time where there is the ability to get rid of a game and bring economic development to the state of Oregon," Cameron said.

The bill also stipulates that schools use 70 percent of the state proceeds to fund non-revenue producing sports, and 50 percent of that funding must be earmarked for women's sports.

The legislation is expected to meet opposition in the Senate, particularly in support of the Oregon Education Association, which represents 43,000 educators and has already publicly opposed the bill.

OEA President Kris Kain told the Associated Press that the bill would take money from primary and secondary schools.

"After years of devastating cuts," Kain said, "even the loss of one dollar hurts."

Cameron argues that the plan to give state schools a portion of the Administrative Services Economic Development Fund will ensure that any loss of money for schools is kept to a minimum and that even if schools end up with less money in their coffers, losses would be easily offset if the state hosts portions of the NCAA championship basketball tournament.

"Oregon has a strong history of supporting college sports and has the first-class facilities to do that," Cameron said. "It's time that the rest of the nation sees what Oregon has to offer."

He predicted that Portland or another major city getting into the rotation of hosting early round games, or even the Final Four, would have a positive economic impact of more than $125 million over 15 years.

Oregon Legislators Move to Ban Sports Lottery is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith