NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Betting On College Sports

April 3, 2001

Alone among the 50 states, Nevada allows betting on college sports contests. And while federal laws ban transferring bets across state lines, the laws are rarely enforced unless there's an organized ring involved.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association wants to end all gambling on college sports and has tried to enlist the help of Congress for a federal law to ban it. College coaches argue that it puts strain on their players. Indeed, some participants have become embroiled in scandals involving betting in recent years.

But the American Gaming Association -- representing gambling interests - wants the federal government to avoid any action on the issue.

  • While sports betting represents just one-half of one percent of gambling company revenues, industry interests fear that outlawing betting on college games will lead to other federal regulatory incursions into gambling.
  • Nevada's legal sports books bring in about $2.3 billion in betting each year -- estimated to be a mere 1 percent of total organized gambling on sports nationwide.
  • Sports gambling in the U.S. has traditionally been governed by states and -- even though collegiate wagering is illegal outside Nevada -- it goes on elsewhere, sometimes even on college campuses.
  • Foes of federal action argue that a federal law banning gambling nationwide would only drive the practice further underground.

When the NCAA approached influential senators and congressmen with its plea several years ago, it initially received pledges of support, it reports. But its bill died in the last Congress and support has reportedly melted away in this Congress.

The organization notes that the gambling industry has deep pockets and gives generously to political campaigns. The NCAA, however, is a tax-exempt organization and is forbidden by law from making campaign donations.

Source: Tom Hamburger and Christina Binkley, "Bid to Outlaw Betting on College Sports Faces Very Long Odds," Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2001.


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