Two senators have a brilliant idea … OK, maybe not |

Two senators have a brilliant idea … OK, maybe not

by Jeff Ackerman

“Never let a sucker wise up.” – W.C. Fields.

Senators Patrick Leahy and Sam Brownback don’t look like suckers. According to their bios, they graduated from high school and earned law degrees from well-respected law schools.

When you look at their web sites you see the usual humanitarian issues: save the kids, save the whales, no taxes, no violent music, no Internet sex and no anything else that voters might consider favorably at reelection time.

Leahy, a Catholic Democrat from Vermont, has been in office more than 25 years. Brownback, a Methodist Republican from Kansas, has been in Congress since 1996.

The only real explanation, then, for their recent lapse in judgment, is that folks tend to “dumb down” when they reach Washington, D.C.

It could be the water.

Or perhaps it’s those mid-summer atmospheric conditions where they warn residents of our nation’s capital to stay indoors or die.

Maybe that’s what turns otherwise bright people into suckers. The two men stepped outside at the same time and took a deep breath of poisonous gas and it shot straight to the old brain pan, killing every cell in its path.

What else could have brought two U.S. senators from opposite ends of the political spectrum together for one of the dumbest proposals to come out of Washington in … uhmmm … minutes.

The two learned lawmakers actually believe that if they make it illegal to bet on college sports – and it’s currently legal to do that only in Nevada – college campuses across the nation will be cured of gambling forever and a day.

It seems the two senators recently discovered that some college students (this is where you hold your ears) actually make wagers on games. In fact, lots of them wager more money than they have, which explains the signs you see held up at college games asking moms and dads to “SEND MONEY.”

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission, created by Congress in 1996, estimated that $80 billion to $380 billion is spent on gambling each year.

That’s right. The commission took a real stab at it and determined that, give or take $300 billion, a whole bunch of money is wagered in the U.S. every year.

In other words, no one, not even a government commission, really knows how much is gambled in America every year. That’s because sports bookies don’t report those kinds of statistics.

Sal in New York City probably doesn’t file a report with Uncle Sam indicating how many college preppies took Stanford minus the points Saturday night. And Mickey in Miami didn’t let the feds know how many Florida State students bet the Seminoles to whip Virginia Tech in the National Championship game last month.

Nor are the 200 or so Internet sports betting sites required to file financial disclosures. College student gamblers can stay home in their PJs and bet on a game through some sports book outfit in the Cayman Islands.

But the Nevada Gaming Commission knows exactly how much money was wagered in Nevada on college sports last week and last year. That’s because it’s legal and, as a result, it’s controlled.

Vinnie “The Knee Breaker” isn’t likely to show up at your dorm to collect if you don’t happen to cover a legal bet in Nevada. Here, you are required to put the money up before the game starts. They don’t take markers.

Brownback and Leahy are among many on Capitol Hill who still believe you can legislate America to morality. Pass a law and our troubles are over.

Remember Prohibition? That worked wonders. Especially for guys like Lucky Luciano. Lucky just loved Prohibition. He made a killing.

Prostitution? Hey, it’s illegal in San Francisco and I’ll bet you couldn’t find a hooker there if you looked all day.

Okay … maybe you could.

But I’ll bet you couldn’t find one in downtown Topeka, where Senator Brownback is from.

Okay … maybe you could. In fact, I read a story this week in the Topeka paper where officials are trying to shut down a 60-acre nudist camp.

That’s right, Toto. Nudists in Kansas.

Guns? You’ve heard it before. “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws …”

And it’s a darned good thing marijuana is illegal. I don’t know what we’d do if citizens were running around smoking pot and betting on collegiate games simultaneously.

OK … so maybe one or two citizens still do.

But not in Vermont, where Senator Leahy’s from. It’s against the law to smoke pot, chase hookers and bet college football games simultaneously, or otherwise, in his hometown of Montpelier.

OK … so maybe you’d find four or five doing it, but probably less than 1,000.

“There is no evidence that Nevada is a factor in illegal sports betting on campuses across America,” said Nevada’s own Sen. Richard Bryan. “It (gambling on campus) is a problem, but this piece of legislation will do nothing to alter that.”

If Congress really wants to curb on-campus gambling, it should simply outlaw sports. Or at least make it illegal to watch a sporting event. Let Michigan and Ohio State have their silly old football game. Just don’t let anyone see it.

Morality begins at home. Even Lord Chesterfield knew that way back in 1773. In a letter to his nephew, who had a bit of a gambling problem, Chesterfield wrote, “Whoever plays deep must necessarily lose his money, or his character.”

If it’s true that a sucker is born every minute, we’ll have 200 million suckers in the U.S. by 2005. That’s in addition to the two we already have in Washington, D.C.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.