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Betting On UNLV May Be Legal By Winter

4 August 2000

by Cy Ryan

CARSON CITY, Nevada – Aug. 4, 2000 -- Betting in Nevada casinos on UNLV and University of Nevada, Reno, football games will continue to be illegal this fall, but the ban may be lifted in time for basketball season.

Brian Sandoval, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, said Thursday he will hold hearings in October and November on lifting the prohibition against wagering on Nevada teams, a regulation that dates back to the 1950s.

Sandoval wants to wait until Congress recesses to see if federal legislation is adopted to stop betting on all college games. That would make any action in Nevada moot.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., are trying to push through legislation this year to outlaw betting on college sports. They tried last week but fell short of setting up a vote on the issue. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the bill won't get through this year.

Congress is in adjournment until September. After that the Senate has just five weeks of work time left. The anti-college betting bill could be reintroduced next year.

One of the arguments backers of the betting ban use is that Nevada regulations prohibit betting on local teams. Yet the state allow wagering on teams across the country.

McCain and Brownback feel there is widespread betting by students on campuses nationally and this makes student athletes susceptible to the temptations of game fixing. Yet Nevada protects its own athletes by not permitting betting on its teams, they say.

Sandoval intends to hold hearings in Carson City and Las Vegas on the regulation, which then could be adopted by the commission. By that time the regular football season would be over.

The gaming chairman said allowing betting on Nevada teams would actually increase the protection of athletes.

At present betters can place wagers on Nevada teams through the Internet or illegal bookies. If wagering was legal, Sandoval said gaming regulators would be able to monitor the point spreads to see if there is any wide swings that would indicate possible game fixing or point shaving.

Sandoval said the McCain-Brownback bill does nothing to curb the illegal betting in other states. Its only focus is on Nevada sports books.

The betting prohibition in Nevada dates back to the late 1950s when there was a small population, and there was a perception of a close association between players and the public. There was a fear that bettors could get inside information to help them with their betting choices, Sandoval said.

But the state has grown, and Nevada has a sophisticated regulatory system that can detect any irregularities, Sandoval said.

He said the change in the regulation was initially prompted by the McCain-Brownback legislation, but further analysis showed there were other benefits to wiping out the ban of more than 40 years.

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