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Tony Batt

Senator Won't Push Sports Betting Bill

4 March 2004

WASHINGTON, DC -- Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he does not plan to push his bill to prohibit Nevada sports books from taking bets on college games during this month's NCAA men's basketball tournament.

The tournament, also known as March Madness, trails only the Super Bowl in Las Vegas gambling interest.

"I don't want to bring up something that we can't win," McCain, R-Ariz., said.

First introduced in 2000, the proposed ban once seemed almost certain to become law. But staunch resistance from the American Gaming Association and Nevada's congressional delegation have bottled up the bill.

While he said he has not given up, McCain acknowledged the betting ban legislation is unlikely to advance unless something new happens.

"My assessment is it probably is going to require another scandal," McCain said.

McCain said he would have to check with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and with college coaches to see if they believe the betting ban is still a high priority. Last month, McCain's bill was hardly mentioned during a meeting between NCAA officials and the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

McCain cited Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., as the major opposition forces.

"I think I could get it through the (Senate) Commerce Committee," said McCain, who is that committee's chairman. "But getting it to the floor would be, I think, extremely difficult and I have to assess that."

Robert Stewart, a spokesman for Caesars Entertainment, said Congress should focus on illegal betting across the country instead of legalized wagering in Nevada.

"We have always believed that to be able to take bets on college games in the context of a highly regulated, closely watched environment is the best way to ensure there is integrity in the betting process," Stewart said.