Vol. 22, No. 2, July 18, 2002

Failure to curb school sports betting spells trouble for youth, expert says

Mark Reutter, Business Editor
(217) 333-0568; mreutter@illinois.edu


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — With efforts to curb college sports gambling blocked by congressional opponents, a generation of teenagers and young people may be entering the workforce with gambling debts and addictions, an expert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign asserts in a scholarly article.

John W. Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy who has written widely on gambling, examined the politics that defeated a ban on college and high school sports betting in Congress in 2000. His case study, "College and Amateur Sports Gambling: Gambling Away Our Youth," was published in the Villanova Sports & Entertainment Law Journal.

The High School and College Gambling Prohibition Act was designed to end legalized gambling on high school and college sports as well as the summer and winter Olympics. The bill’s drafters wanted to plug a loophole in a 1992 law that prohibited college sports gambling in all states except Nevada, which was exempted because of pre-existing laws permitting college sports gambling.

The bill came on the heels of well-publicized incidents involving college basketball and football players who had shaved points, conspired to fix games or bet against their team.

Law-enforcement agents reported that betting by teenagers and college students was increasing rapidly. On some campuses, sports bookmaking rings cooperated with organized-crime bookies, and in a few cases mobsters had established direct links with players.

The bill banning Nevada college sports gambling was enthusiastically backed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and major educational institutions, including the American Council of Education and American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Nevertheless, Kindt noted, the bill ran into fierce opposition from casino lobbyists and the Nevada congressional delegation. A public relations and advertising campaign initiated by casino interests, for example, claimed that politicians wanted "to snatch away your rights."

In February 2001, a Nevada congressman drafted a bill that, according to Kindt, "constituted a direct financial attack on U.S. higher education" by penalizing colleges and universities that failed to prevent illegal sports gambling on campus.

While the NCAA last year banned sports gambling by campus athletes, a ban on gaming on college games by students and others failed in Congress. Nevada has retained its sports gambling parlors.

"The cost associated with legalized gambling can be likened to the costs associated with America’s drug-abuse problem," Kindt concluded. Total social costs from gambling – including bankruptcy filings, divorce, criminal activity and lost work – amount to about $80 billion a year, he wrote, compared with $70 billion a year for drug addiction. The co-author of the paper is Thomas Asmar, a University of Illinois law graduate.


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