Lawmakers Seek to Combat Gambling On College Campuses
Some members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate want to zero in on what they consider a major crisis in higher education — gambling among college students and student-athletes.New legislation in both chambers calls for action to combat both legal and illegal gambling, and some provisions also could give colleges new responsibilities to combat illegal activity.Under legislation from Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and John Ensign, R-Nev., for example, colleges and universities would have to designate a full-time senior officer to coordinate a campaign against illegal gambling. Colleges also would have to report to the U.S. Department of Education on their progress on gambling and make “reasonable further progress” on illegal gambling to remain eligible to participate in federal student financial aid programs.“Just as schools now report on incidents of drug and alcohol abuse on their campuses, they will now provide similar data on illegal wagering,” said Reid in outlining the bill, which was referred to the Judiciary Committee.Under their bill, S. 338, the attorney general would convene a panel to study the effectiveness of steps taken by colleges to reduce illegal gambling.Many view the Reid-Ensign effort as an alternative to forestall other legislation that would end legal gambling in Nevada on college events. Nevada senators are resisting efforts to ban legal wagering on college sports, yet they face a formidable opponent — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.The current policy to permit legal gambling on college sports in Nevada “allows one state to serve as a national clearinghouse for betting on our youth,” says McCain.In a 1996 study by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, 25 percent of student-athletes surveyed admitted to gambling on college athletic events while in school, McCain says. By eliminating legal gambling on college sports, the bill “will reduce a substantial amount of illegal gambling as well.”McCain’s bill has some support among Republicans. “Betting on amateur athletics … transforms student-athletes into objects to be bet upon,” he said in introducing S. 718, the Amateur Sports Integrity Act, with Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.McCain says the bill from the Nevada senators could serve as a complement to his plan, since it targets illegal wagering. However, he says, it should not serve as an alternative to his proposal.
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