NCAA barking up
the wrong tree!

Apr 16, 2003 4:15 AM

Last week, it was reported that college officials were shocked at Florida State University to learn that students were betting on sporting events. This is shocking?

Once upon a time, if Joe College wanted to make a play on a game or bet a horse, he didn’t have to roam too far from campus. There was always a willing soul at frat houses, dormitories or college hangouts who would take the action.

Anyone old enough to make a bet can remember the betting options. I had options. I’d call upon Matty if I had a hot horse. He was a fine, upstanding member of the community. He owned a hotel and a coffee shop (The Corner Room). It was the place to be seen. I was shocked when I discovered early on that Matty played the horses. It happened by accident one day when I saw the mailman deliver the Daily Racing Form to his private office. The bible was wrapped in brown paper with no telltale return address. But I knew the Form when I saw it.

It didn’t take long to convince Matty I could keep his secret if he would be kind enough to move a bet for me now and again. Before he could answer, I reminded him of my stable connections in Maryland. As luck would have it, I got lucky. A few days later, after winning his confidence, I laid him on a long shot winner at Pimlico. From that day on, he welcomed me with open arms. Matty moved his bets by telephone to someone in Altoona.

When I wanted to bet on a game, there were plenty of choices: frat row, a number of dorms or several fellow students working their way through college. They mainly pushed parlay cards. What a business. It seemed as if every kid on campus ”” anxious to win a lumber yard with a toothpick ”” filled out a card. It never really caught my attention. I focused on games and took my action to ZBT (zillion, billion, trillion) frat house. There was always action there. The ZBTers loved the action more than their studies. The best poker games on campus were played there two or three times a week. Those were the days.

Now comes word of a couple of congressmen who want to introduce legislation that would outlaw betting on intercollegiate sports. They have been told, by the NCAA and others, that there are a growing number of gambling scandals on campuses nationwide. The NCAAers claim attempts to fix games are on the rise. Maybe so, maybe not.

But, what does it have to do with banning legal sports betting? It’s a direct attack on Nevada, the only state where full-blown sports wagering is legal. Anyone who knows anything about Nevada’s sports book operations knows the Silver State is probably the toughest place in the land to bet any serious money on a game that doesn’t look right. Law enforcement keeps open (telephone) lines directly into the legal bet shops. They are constantly tuned in to see if any unusual betting is taking place. Our local Barons of Bet cooperate. They are cautious (very cautious) about getting trapped.

If they go ahead and kill legal sports betting (they won’t), outlaw bookies will invade the campuses. And off-shore bookies, where online betting is supposedly illegal, will prosper like we’ve never seen before. They already dominate local watering holes far from Nevada where they make book.

Let’s face it: sports betting is almost as American as apple pie. If there is an increase in fixers on campus with students and their games, let the NCAAers call out the bloodhounds. Don’t penalize a state such as Nevada where a bettor has to be 21 years of age and be physically present in the state to make a play.

  Sports betting has been around college campuses a lot longer than the NCAA. And it’s been far less harmful. Let the NCAA pursue its crusade, but stay away from an unholy war against Nevada.