The commissioners of professional baseball, basketball and football want the federal government to outlaw the spread of legalized gambling in their sports.
But states and casinos that make millions of dollars off this are predictably opposed to such a law, and the state of Oregon, which has a sports-based lottery, calls the professional sports leagues hypocrites."The professional sports leagues have long been aware of extensive wagering on their games, have taken virtually no action to prevent it, have frequently acquiesced in it, and, in fact, have benefited from it," Oregon Lottery director James J. Davey said in testimony prepared for delivery today to a Senate panel.
Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee holding today's hearing, is sponsoring bills that would prohibit states from allowing the use of professional sports symbols for gambling or using sports results as the basis for wagering.
The bill would allow such gaming to continue in Oregon, Delaware and Nevada, where it already is legal, but would not permit more states to do it.
Davey said at least two professional team owners - Barron Hilton, one of the owners of the National Football League's San Diego Chargers, and Jerry Buss of the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Lakers - are involved in legalized gambling.
Hilton, whose company owns the Las Vegas Hilton, appears in a brochure at the hotel that explains how to bet on a professional football game. The brochure uses a game between the Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams as an example.
Davey said Buss recently was featured in a magazine for his third-place finish in the World Series of Poker.
But the commissioners - Paul Tagliabue of the NFL, Fay Vincent of Major League Baseball and David Stern of the NBA - warned that gambling could damage the sports, question their honesty and anger betting fans whose team won but cost them money because of the point spread.
"We do not want our games used as bait to sell gambling," Tagliabue said in his testimony. "Sports gambling should not be used as a cure for the sagging fortunes of Atlantic City casinos or to boost public interest in state lotteries. We should not gamble with our children's heroes."
Baseball has had its own gambling scandal, and while Vincent did not mention former Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose by name, he did refer once to the incident, saying it "demonstrated the lengths to which baseball would go to enforce this fundamental public safeguard."
Rose, recently released from prison, has been banned for life from baseball because of his gambling.