- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Senator John McCain seems to be on a crusade to bury money. He is proposing another bad idea to drive the dollar underground. The senator wants to ban betting on college sports in Nevada. This is no more workable than the ban on soft money contributions to politicians. As long as there is room in the candidates' pockets for more greenbacks, the donors will find a way to fill them. The only way such a ban could work would depend upon the high standards of the recipient, which is why the idea is all but dead.

Your local bookie must be rubbing his hands together at the thought of eliminating Las Vegas from the betting scene. He may even want to make a contribution to Sen. McCain's next campaign. Just what we need, more backroom betting. There is no way to prevent sports fans from laying down a bet on a college game when the media hype it as the game of the century and furnish us with the point spread to boot. We will win the war on drugs before we win the war on gambling.

The senator says he wants to clean up amateur sports across the country. He might start by looking at the universities who make millions off of athletes who can barely read or write. He might question how they were admitted to the university to begin with, and how, once there, they remain eligible to play. The fact that the athlete isn't paid is not at all true. When the cost of a college education can run into six figures, giving the athlete a free pass with a sports scholarship is a pretty healthy payment.

As long as college sports receive the attention they do, betting will be a big part of the game. The NCAA worries that dollars bet in Nevada put undue influence on athletes to throw games. This is the same NCAA that takes in billions of dollars exploiting the athletes while at the same time referring to them as amateurs. This treatment of these amateur “employees” comes pretty close to what we know as child labor. It is easy to see how one might be swayed to change the outcome of a game.

Americans love to gamble. There are very few casinos that go broke. Off-track betting flourishes, and most states have a lottery. Any bar or grill worth its salt is running a pool of some kind. There is enough money bet on the Super Bowl each year to whittle the national debt down to a pittance. Any attempt to outlaw gambling only serves to enrich the illegal betting parlors. When you stop to think about it, why is gambling illegal to begin with? Is there any difference morally between a bet on a game and buying a state lottery ticket —other than you have a better chance on the game?

Perhaps we should have betting booths at our college stadiums where tailgaters could place a wager on the home team. The school could reap the profits and pay the athletes so they could hire tutors to get an education while they are attending college. The NCAA has a lot of things to clean up, and if they could run their systems as well as Nevada runs gambling, we wouldn't have to be concerned about athletes throwing games.

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