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Jun 10, 2003 9:44 PM

Whether Adrian McPherson allegedly bet on football or Rick Neuheisel took part in a high-stakes March Madness college basketball pool, you just know Las Vegas will wind up taking the rap. After all, perception is real hard to overcome.

The NCAA schools would have supporters believe that the lure of gambling is the biggest source of evil in college athletics and needs to be eliminated.

The truth is Las Vegas holds sports betting to the highest standards. It’s regulated a lot better than the NCAA.

On college campuses, bookies and agents hover like vultures. They swoop in, knowing full well there is a captive audience that can’t wait to make a wager on a sporting event.

Bobby Bowden is teflon at Florida State, whether or not he had any knowledge of what his prize QB was doing. Give him credit for dismissing McPherson before his latest mess broke out.

As for office pools in the NCAA basketball tournament, they go on everywhere. Heck, there’s probably one on Capitol Hill. But Neuheisel carries a lot of baggage from past jobs and should have known that one more miscue could ruin him.

It may draw a few "told you so’s" out here seeing college athletes or coaches involved in illegal acts so declared under NCAA rules. But, Las Vegas will no doubt feel the impact of such transgressions. That’s what being a scapegoat is like.

The NCAA and the politicians in Washington will again push to eliminate college sports betting, using cases such as McPherson, Neuheisel and any point-shaving scandal that comes along.

We’re proud to claim that bets made in Vegas allow customers the best shot at seeing a wager conducted on the up-and up.

It’s the reason Nevada sports events were kept off the boards for years and why the Maloofs, as owners the Palms and the Sacramento Kings, can’t book NBA games.

It’s called integrity, which exists up, down and around the Strip and across Nevada. Too bad the NCAA and the Capitol Hill gang can’t grasp that or the fact Vegas isn’t the enemy.