'Don't bet against it'
Coaches, lawmakers unite behind anti-gambling laws
Posted: Friday March 31, 2000 07:56 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- What are the odds that Congress will pass legislation to ban gambling on college sports?
"Don't bet against it," said U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer, predicting a tough fight but eventual success.
Roemer, D-Ind., is sponsoring the measure in the House. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is the Senate sponsor. Both men were joined by NCAA president Cedric Dempsey and Purdue coach Gene Keady at a news conference Friday.
"It's a matter of the integrity of the game," said Keady, incoming president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
"It's got to be handled in the proper manner. It's not going to be a quick sprint to the finish line, it's going to be a long series of people working together."
Chances for passage improved when former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took control of the measure and had it assigned to his Senate Commerce Committee.
"We need the coaches behind us," Brownback said. "What I really fear is it's going to take some big point-shaving case to shock us into getting it done."
Congress banned sports betting in most states in 1992 but exempted Nevada, whose gambling industry took in $2.3 billion in sports wagers in 1999, with 30 percent to 40 percent bet on college sports. Brownback and Leahy's bill also would ban wagering on high school sports and Olympic events.
Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson called the issue "a no-brainer."
"I am concerned about the future of our game. ... This is a silent killer," he said.
The Las Vegas books are expected to be packed Saturday when Michigan State plays Wisconsin and North Carolina meets Florida in the national semifinals.
At most sports books across the city on Friday, Michigan State was an 8-point favorite, while Florida was favored by five points.
"This is very big in Las Vegas," said John Harper, an oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which sets the odds for most Nevada sports books. "A lot of people come to town to wager on the game."
The Super Bowl is by far the most heavily bet game of the year, and the NCAA tournament is generally perceived as the second-biggest event of the year.
"It will hurt dramatically if they ban the legal betting," Harper said. "We just don't know what's going to happen, but we know it would hurt."