For the second consecutive year, Congress is considering NCAA-supported legislation that would ban gambling on all intercollegiate sporting events in all 50 states.
On March 20, Reps. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; Ron Kind, D-Wisconsin; Tom Osborne, R-Nebraska; and Tim Roemer, D-Indiana, reintroduced legislation -- the "Student-Athlete Protection Act" (H.R. 1110) -- that is identical to an NCAA-supported bill that did not reach the floor last year. A companion bill probably will be introduced in the Senate in early April.
H.R. 1110 would remove the "Nevada loophole" from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which allows Nevada to be the only state to conduct legal gambling on collegiate sports.
The Nevada Congressional delegation has introduced a related bill in both the House and Senate, potentially complicating the legislative landscape.
The new bill, supported by casino interests and opposed by the NCAA, is known as the "National Collegiate and Amateur Protection Act of 2001" (H.R. 641/S. 332). Although the Nevada-backed bill has elements that the NCAA would support, such as more research on youth gambling and better enforcement of existing laws, the NCAA opposes it because of its approach and for what it would not do.
The Nevada-backed bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require that institutions of higher education make reasonable progress, as defined by the secretary of education, toward eliminating illegal gambling on campus. Most notably, institutions would have to comply with the provisions of the proposed act to receive any federal aid, including federal student loans and Pell Grants. To comply with the requirement, institutions would have to:
Designate at least one full-time senior official to coordinate an anti-gambling program.
Submit an annual report to the U.S. attorney general and the secretary of education on what the campus has done to reduce illegal gambling by students and campus employees.
Amend their campus crime reports to include all instances of gambling on campus by students or employees of the institution, including gambling that takes place over the Internet.
Discontinue student aid to any student-athlete who has violated NCAA gambling rules and report annually to the attorney general and secretary of education the instances in which student-athletes have been denied aid.
The proposed Nevada-backed bill would address illegal gambling only in the context of higher education. The legislation does not call for an examination of illegal gambling by adults, except for those affiliated with colleges and universities.
"It is a bad idea to punish colleges and universities through this self-serving legislation merely because the NCAA had the courage to unite against the powerful Nevada gambling industry," said Doris Dixon, NCAA director of federal relations. "Certainly, an examination of illegal gambling and ways to better enforce existing laws prohibiting illegal gambling in all 50 states is part of the overall strategy to address this problem, but the Nevada-backed bills cleverly avoid the hard questions and instead provide an easy cover for those in Congress who are afraid to oppose the well-heeled gambling industry by supporting H.R. 1110."
The NCAA is moving ahead in its efforts to make gambling on college sports events illegal through the passage of H.R. 1110.
"We are optimistic that that the legislation will be considered before Congress completes this session in 2002," Dixon said. "We are confident that it will ultimately be adopted by a bipartisan majority of Congress and signed into law by President Bush."
More than 100 college and university presidents and 65 prominent coaches have directly asked Congress to support the NCAA-supported measure.
At an April 2 news conference at the Men's Final Four in Minneapolis, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, and Rep. Donald Payne, D-New Jersey, both spoke in favor of H.R. 1110. Brownback said he is willing to work with the sponsors of the Nevada bill to curtail illegal gambling, while Payne said he was looking, along with Indiana's Roemer, at ways to amend the Nevada bill as part of an overall package to combat problems associated with collegiate sports gambling.
Men's basketball coaches Gene Keady of Purdue University and Roy Williams of the University of Kansas also supported H.R. 1110 at the news conference.
Casino interests have been busy on other fronts. Last fall, Nevada gambling interests succeeded in changing state law to permit gambling on college teams within the state. Critics, including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, claimed that the state eliminated a necessary law simply because its existence made casino interests vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy as they fought federal anti-gambling legislation.
Also, Terry Lanni, chairman of MGM Mirage casino, has said he will ask Nevada politicians to sponsor an NCAA oversight bill. Lanni told the Las Vegas Sun that the NCAA is "dictatorial" in its regulation of colleges and universities.
Nevada interests have a history of attempting to use federal or state authority to influence NCAA policy. In 1978, Nevada Rep. James Santini initiated a Congressional investigation into the NCAA enforcement process. In 1992, the NCAA sued the state of Nevada over a so-called due-process law that would have made it impossible for the Association to enforce its rules in that state or any state enacting similar laws. The NCAA won that case.
In another recent development involving gambling, the American Gaming Association in a March 29 news release sought to demonstrate that the NCAA is not dedicated to controlling illegal gambling on campuses because the campus newspapers of all 65 institutions in the Division I Men's Basketball Championship either took or would have accepted advertising for Internet gambling sites.
"That charge is nothing but a misdirection play," Dixon said. "We do not have a gambling problem on college campuses because student newspapers contain Internet gambling advertising. Rather, student newspapers contain that kind of advertising because a major gambling problem already exists at colleges and universities across the country.
"This just highlights the problem. Internet gambling is illegal throughout the country, but people don't know that because they are confused by legal bookmaking in Nevada. In fact, this study points to the need for a national policy against gambling on college sports events."