Sports books licking Super Bowl wounds, facing Congressional challenge
LAS VEGAS – Refunding millions of dollars bet on the Super Bowl was bad enough. Now, Nevada’s sports books face a week that doesn’t figure to get any better.
A bid to ban legal betting on college sports – an effort backed by the NCAA – gets under way Tuesday with the scheduled introduction of legislation in Washington, D.C.
If successful, it could have a lot bigger impact than a string of bad Super Bowls for the sports betting industry. A third of the $2.4 billion wagered legally in the state in 1998 was estimated to have been bet on college sports.
”We’re going to need to make our case before the House and Senate to stop this,” said Frank Fahrenkopf of the American Gaming Association.
Presidential candidate John McCain is among 10 Senate sponsors of the legislation, which seeks to block betting on high school, college and Olympic sports in Nevada.
Fahrenkopf said extending the ban to high school and Olympic sports is simply a way to try and gain support for the legislation. He said there has never been betting on high school sports in Nevada, and very little on the Olympics.
”They’re just adding that in there to get some oomph for their argument,” he said.
Sports betting is legal only in Nevada, although Fahrenkopf argues that the money that sports books in the state take in pales in comparison to the amount bet illegally in the country – up to $380 billion by some estimates.
And Fahrenkopf claims that if the NCAA believes sports betting is such a problem on its member campuses, the organization should do something on the campuses to solve the problem rather than go after Nevada sports books.
”This has nothing to do with Nevada. That’s the case we have to make,” Fahrenkopf said.
Fahrenkopf said he plans to meet later this week with Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Democratic co-sponsor of the bill.
The NCAA is urging its 1,031 member colleges+and universities to lobby members of Congress to support the bill, a similar version of which will also be introduced in the House.
”The NCAA is working extremely hard on the Hill, making the argument that if you go on this bill, you are supporting amateur athletics,” Fahrenkopf said.
The legislation was to have been introduced last week, but was postponed because of a snowstorm that hit the nation’s capital.
Nevada’s sports books had a rough start to the week already. With St. Louis winning the Super Bowl 23-16, bookmakers had to refund millions of dollars in bets made on both teams because the Rams were a 7-point favorite.
And competition from online sports betting operations is threatening the lock that Nevada sports books have on betting. Some estimates were that the Super Bowl betting was down 10 to 15 percent, partly because of Internet betting sites.