Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2000 | 11:08 a.m.
UNLV President Carol Harter weighed in against a bill in Congress to ban gambling on non-professional sports, saying "Outlawing legal betting on collegiate sports would neither eliminate nor significantly reduce betting on those sports. Rather, it would drive sports wagering further underground, on campuses and elsewhere."
Harter said legal sports betting in Nevada in 1998 amounted to $2.3 billion compared to estimates of illegal, uncontrolled sports gambling nationally ranging from $80 billion to more than $300 billion annually.
"Clearly, the proposed ban would affect only legal, regulated activity. If it affected illegal bookies at all, it would be to increase their business," Harter said in a letter released Monday.
Critics say legal gambling in Nevada is responsible for some of the illegal gambling problems in other states because Nevada betting lines are used nationwide and out-of-staters can illegally send money into Nevada for wagering.
But Harter said Nevada's legal sports books assist the NCAA and law enforcement agencies in spotting illegal activity like point-shaving incidents.
"It is worth considering the impact a ban would likely have on television ratings -- and on the television revenue that helps support intercollegiate athletic departments nationwide. History Professor Richard Davies of the University of Nevada, Reno, writing on the nearly 400-year history of sports betting in America, observes that television has been a 'major factor in the popularization of sports gambling' and that 'television ratings ... for NCAA games and professional leagues are directly linked to the perpetuation of sports wagering,"' Harter added in a letter to fellow university presidents on the NCAA Board of Directors and in the Mountain West Conference.
"As a member of the NCAA Board of Directors and your Mountain West Conference representative, I am distressed at what I see as an exercise in symbolism rather than a thoughtful attempt to curb or eliminate illegal wagering among college athletes on or around campuses across the United States," Harter wrote.
"I think we can all agree that illegal betting on collegiate sports is a problem that must be addressed. But let us not do for sports betting what Prohibition did for drinking. Far better results can be achieved through increased education and counseling. As educational institutions, we should make that our goal," she said.