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Betting On Pro Sports Could Be Next Target

30 August 2000

by Jeff Haney

LAS VEGAS, Nevada --Aug. 20, 2000 --If Arizona Sen. John McCain & friends succeed in banning college sports betting in Nevada, don't think they'll stop there.

Wagering on professional sports could be their next target.

"I wouldn't be surprised at all if that is the next step," said Joe Lupo, sports book director at the Stardust hotel-casino.

Lupo's comments came Saturday at the Stardust during a football betting symposium sponsored by the Vegas Insider website.

Sen. Richard Bryan spoke on the same panel, and suggested Nevada interests face an Everest-sized uphill battle to stop the Congressional bill championed by McCain that would outlaw college sports betting here.

Panelists agreed a bill to ban betting on pro sports also would find widespread support outside of Nevada.

Professional sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball would score big in the public-relations department by backing such a bill, with virtually no drawbacks from their perspective.

"Pro sports don't have a whole lot to lose," Lupo said.

The fact that much of the interest in the NFL is driven by some form of gambling would apparently have no effect on the league's stance.

"They understand that 98 percent of the betting is illegal anyway," Lupo said. "It won't affect the TV ratings, because everyone who bets will still have a bet on the game anyway. ... It won't affect anyone except the 1 to 2 percent of the (total number of bettors) who make their bets in Nevada."

And, of course, those who work in the industry.

Bryan, meanwhile, expressed chagrin that the future of betting on college -- and professional -- sports in Nevada casinos will be decided by a bunch of out-of-state politicians who think a sports book is a novel by Dan Jenkins.

For instance, here's how Bryan described his opponents' reaction to the argument that Nevada's strict regulations on sports betting have helped detect several point-shaving scandals: "They kind of roll their eyes."

And how about attacking a real problem by introducing a bill that would increase penalties for campus bookies?

"They'd say, 'That's a hell of an idea, lets add it to the (betting-ban) bill,' " Bryan said.

Panel moderator Peter Ruchman, general manager of the Gambler's Book Shop on S. 11th Street, delivered a couple of the seminar's best lines.

Ruchman suggested if the betting ban becomes law, the parking lot of a major Strip resort would be transformed into a sort of open-air betting bazaar, with hordes of rogue bookmakers plying their trade.

He also referred to the betting-ban legislation as "The Mafia Employment Act of the Year 2000

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