The peripatetic Oates, 43, has shuttled back and forth between six major league and six minor league teams as a player, coach and manager. He, his wife of 22 years, Gloria, and their children, Lori, 17, Andy, 13, and Jenny, 10, reside in Chicago but are thinking of moving back to a former home in Colonial Heights, Va. "About the only place we haven't lived for [at least] four or five months is the Northwest," says Oates, who has been with the Orioles, Braves, Phillies, Dodgers, Yankees and Cubs.
The Oateses' greatest concern has been their children, and they have often hired tutors for the kids while sojourning at spring training. "But it's tough to make up a biology lab with a tutor," says Oates. "How do you make up for cutting open a frog?" Lori, who spent time in six different school systems between third grade and eighth, has no complaints. As she recently told her father, "Dad, I think living in one place would be boring."
THE OREGON PLAN
In what may prove to be a landmark step in the nationwide movement toward legalized sports betting, Oregon lottery director Jim Davey will propose to his state's lottery commission later this month that Oregon introduce a pro football lottery in September. Every week during the NFL season the state would sell tickets, each listing 14 games, for $1 apiece. A lottery player would win money if he beat the state's official point spread on four or more games. Davey's office estimates that the football lottery, which has a good chance of commission approval, would net between $3.5 and $9 million in the first year. The state's regular lottery generates more than $60 million in net annual revenue.
Wagering on sports other than dog and horse racing and jai alai is illegal in every state except Nevada. But like other forms of gambling—including lotteries, which are now legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia—sports betting is thriving. Gaming and Wagering Business magazine estimates that Americans illegally bet $19.2 billion on sporting events in 1987. Gaming and Wagering copublisher Bruce Smith says legalized sports wagering has become a hot topic among state officials. "It's going to happen in various forms," says Smith.
The Oregon proposal is being closely watched not only by other states—"Once one state breaks down, everyone will start getting into the act," says Arnold Wexler, executive director of New Jersey's Council on Compulsive Gambling—but also by the NFL, which has opposed any form of legalized betting on pro football. "It would change the complexion of the game," says league spokesman Jim Heffernan. "You could have fans rooting against the home team for the sake of their bets." In the mid-1970s, when Delaware tried a pro football lottery similar to the one under consideration in Oregon, the NFL sued to stop it but was unsuccessful. Delaware dropped the game voluntarily after one season because, among other factors, it wasn't generating enough revenue.
Wexler, a former compulsive gambler, sees a social cost in encouraging sports gambling by legalizing it. His organization has found that as opportunities to gamble multiply, so do the number of gambling addicts. Indeed, as more and more states have approved pari-mutuel betting and lotteries, calls to compulsive-gambling hotlines have rapidly increased.
Proponents of the Oregon football lottery maintain that it would be a mere game of chance, not true sports betting. Presumably to satisfy an Oregon law that bars the state from sponsoring any form of gambling in which skill is required, they claim—rather preposterously—that because each NFL game on the lottery ticket would be handicapped by an oddsmaker, football expertise would be of no help in selecting winners.
By Oregon law, all lottery proceeds must be used to promote economic development in the state, but a bill now under consideration in the legislature would earmark some of the revenue from a football lottery to help fund athletic programs at Oregon's seven state colleges and universities.
Regardless of what happens in Oregon, legalized sports betting will almost surely become widespread in the near future. And the NFL, other leagues, and organizations like Wexler's would be wise to prepare for the consequences.