College gambling under scrutiny

August 6, 1999

BOSTON

A US congressional commission has recommended banning gambling on college and amateur sports because of scandals involving student gamblers and athletes.

The commission also proposed raising the minimum age for gambling from 18 to 21, imposing penalties for underage betting and banning internet gambling.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission, appointed two years ago by President Clinton, urged that gambling on college and amateur athletics be made illegal. Its report was immediately endorsed by the major university athletic organisation, the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

"The NCAA's support for these recommendations is consistent with the association's strong anti-sports gambling stance," said NCAA president Cedric Dempsey. The NCAA already prohibits university athletes, coaches and athletic department personnel from sports betting. But this has not prevented several highly publicised gambling scandals.

Two former men's basketball players at Arizona State University have admitted to point-shaving (contriving to win by a smaller margin than expected) and four football players at Boston College confessed to betting against their team, while a student at Columbia has been charged with accepting bets. In some cases, games have allegedly been fixed by professional bookmakers using student associates as go-betweens.

But not everyone thinks banning gambling will end the scandals. "The idea that the problem with gambling among young people is legalised sports [betting] misses the mark by a mile," Senator Richard Bryan, a Nevada Democrat, said. He and others say legalised gambling actually prevents sports bribery because it is so closely regulated.

The commission's recommendations are under review by the White House.

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