Other states eye sports

Nov 26, 2002 6:17 AM

   While Senator John McCain tries to gain more support in Congress each year to pass an anti-gaming bill for college athletics, gambling interest continues to spread around the country.

   The Wall Street Journal reported that “dozens of casinos in 33 states are trying to lure families in what is being hailed as a high stakes gamble.”

   “I’m now in the gaming business,” said Peter Carlino, chairman of the board and CEO of Penn National in remarks at the Global Gaming Expo last month in Las Vegas. “I lost $2 million at Charles Town (West Virginia) Racetrack before adding slots. Now we have a $500 million product.”

   There’s even a movement to extend the reach of legal sports betting.

Rep. William A. Oberle has been pushing for Delaware to consider sports wagering in order to combat the factions in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, which are adding video slot terminals to its racetracks.

   Repeated calls to Oberle’s office outside Dover were not returned.

   Las Vegas Sports Consultants when contacted did not wish to speculate on the matter.

“It would be real hard to say what will happen with the Republicans now in control in Washington and the pending war situation,” an LVSC spokesman said. “The gaming threat hits us between the eyes and it’s just appropriate for us to comment.”

Nevertheless, Delaware, through a loophole in the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Act, is one of four states that can pursue sports betting. Nevada, Oregon and Montana are the others.

However, Oregon is satisfied with just having NFL lottery betting and Montana doesn’t have the population nor the apparent interest to warrant the effort.

   Meanwhile, the pending U.S. war with Iraq may actually help keep college sports betting on the board in Las Vegas for awhile.

   “War would not be a good thing,” said Jay Kornegay, director of the Imperial Palace race and sports book. “As far as affecting the college betting ban, certainly the industry would like to see it go away.”

Arizona Sen. John McCain has pioneered the fight to eliminate college sports gambling, but pending legislation figures to be put on hold compared to a greater priority on the minds of Congress.

   “Campus gambling is reaching epidemic proportions,” McCain recently told the Dallas Morning News.

   The NCAA has been waging its own battle with collegiate sports gambling since 1995 when the FBI projected that $2.5 billion was illegally bet on the men’s basketball championship. The amount was second only to the NFL Super Bowl that year.

   “We have our valid points,” said Kornegay, who has been one of the champions of the pro-gaming lobby. “If McCain wants to push it, we have documented proof that Las Vegas polices the gaming world.”

   Kornegay acknowledges that seeing Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s power reduced from Senate majority to minority whip following the November election results is an obstacle, but not one that can’t be overcome.

   “Whether the bill comes up now or after the pending war, we have a good chance to get the votes needed to it fight off,” he said. “We are on the right side. We need to keep regulated college betting in Nevada.”

Kornegay said he is especially concerned about Las Vegas being tied in to every allegation of point-shaving or fix scandal that comes up on college campuses.

   “The problem doesn’t exist in Nevada,” Kornegay said. “The most important thing to do at this time is to educate some of these senators about how gaming works. For legislators to deal with 1.7 percent of the legal (betting) action as opposed to the 98.3 of the illegal, doesn’t make sense to me.”