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Betting Ban Suggestion Ripped Apart

20 May 1999

By Jeff German and Steve Carp

Nevada political leaders, gaming regulators and sports book operators voiced strong concerns Tuesday about a recommendation from the National Gambling Impact Study Commission to ban betting on college athletics.

Gov. Kenny Guinn and others accused the nine-member federal panel of being shortsighted and not looking at the big picture during its 5-3 vote in Washington on Monday.

"They shouldn't be taking actions without understanding the ramifications," Guinn said. "All of us as Nevadans should understand that if sports betting on college sports was eliminated, it could cause problems with our revenue stream."

Guinn sent newly appointed Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Brian Sandoval to Washington to monitor this week's meeting in anticipation of action unfavorable to the state's gambling industry.

Sandoval said from Capitol Hill that he was disappointed in the federal commission's sports betting recommendation. He noted the panel has lost sight of the fact that all of the college-betting scandals have involved illegal gambling.

State Gaming Control Board Chairman Steve DuCharme said gaming regulators in Nevada actually uncovered one of those scandals, the point-shaving scheme at Arizona State University, after noticing illegal betting patterns at Las Vegas sports books.

Legal wagering in Nevada, DuCharme said, amounts to only 2 percent to 3 percent of the sports betting in the country. Illegal bookmakers handle the majority of the business on the streets, he added.

Last year, according to Control Board figures, about $2.3 billion was wagered at Nevada sports books, which won $77.4 million. A large portion came from wagers on college sports, such as the NCAA basketball tournament and football bowl games.

Most of the Nevada leaders interviewed agreed that the panel should be looking more at illegal sports betting.

"I don't think this is a solution to the problem we're facing, which would be corruption in college athletics," DuCharme said. "In fact, it would have the opposite effect of what they're trying to accomplish."

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said: "The problem isn't with well-regulated sports betting. The problem is with illegal sports betting. Illegal bookies across this country are licking their chops.

"This is going to drive sports betting underground, where its unregulated and untaxed. It's not going to do a thing to help college sports, and it's going to make illegal bookies across the country a whole lot richer than they are now."

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., issued a statement predicting the recommendation, which violates the states rights doctrine, will never be accepted by Congress and Nevada casinos.

"This proposal has about as much chance of becoming law as I have of hitting a home run off of Greg Maddux," Gibbons said.

Las Vegas sports book operators, expressed similar concerns.

"I don't see what they're trying to accomplish," John Avello, Bally's race and sports director, said. "If you stop taking bets here, what have you done? What have you eliminated? All they'd be doing is shifting the money."

Rob Terry, Palace Station's race and sports director, said it's "ludicrous" to think that people will stop betting on college sports if it's banned in Nevada.

"We're the only ones who can monitor it," Terry said. "Do you think Charlie the bookie is going to call the government if he gets wind that there's something irregular going on with a game?

"I just hope and pray it's not realistic. A lot of good people who work in this industry would get hurt."

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