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Outside the Lines: Off the Board
 


Here's the transcript from Show 53 of Outside The Lines - Off the Board

BROADCAST OF SUNDAY, APRIL 1, 2001
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Reporter: Jeremy Schaap, ESPN
Guest: Bill Saum, NCAA director of agent and gambling activities; and "Jerry," a 30-year bookmaker.
Coordinating producer: Jonathan Ebinger, ESPN.

Announcer - April 1, 2001.

Bob Ley, host - Final Four weekend.

Unidentified Male - We're really hungry.

Ley - The drama is on the courts of Minneapolis and St. Louis.

Unidentified Male - The biggest win in the history of the Notre Dame program.

Ley - But the action is miles away in Las Vegas.

Unidentified Male - I like to come out for the sun and to play some golf and to bet the NCAA tournament.

Unidentified Male - I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Unidentified Male - It's excellent, pure, college kids giving it all they've got.

Unidentified Male - Every time they score, we score one.

Ley - The collision of point spreads and student athletes, favorites and national champions. Today on Outside The Lines, with Congress considering a ban, we examine the battle to take college games off the board.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Joining us from ESPN Studios, Bob Ley.

Ley - The NCAA against Las Vegas. These are very familiar battle lines, except this time the target, rather than Jerry Tarkanian's UNLV basketball program as in years past -- is now the entire Nevada gaming industry. Tark's case ended up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

This one conceivably could as well if Congress passes legislation banning what is now legal only in Nevada, gambling on college sports. Nevada raised the ante back in February when it ended its own ban and began accepting bets on in-state colleges, accelerating the collision with the NCAA.

The roll call of college fixes, point shaves, and gambling scandals in the last generation alone is disturbing. And the reality is that millions of fans this morning are vitally interested that both Arizona and Duke not only won last night, but covered their respective spreads.

The NCAA, which faces issues such as amateurism and academic standards, issues with many shades of gray, is casting the college gambling ban starkly in black and white, perhaps because it feels on the verge of winning this battle. Jeremy Schaap examines the Vegas action the NCAA wants shut down.

Jeremy Schaap, ESPN Correspondent - The 2001 NCAA men's basketball champion has yet to be crowned. But March madness has already produced a winner, the state of Nevada, where the tournament is big business.

Joe Lupo, Stardust Race and Sports Book manager - The atmosphere really is just unbelievable. It's electric. People are so excited. It's just action, action, action around the clock basically here in the casino. But it's not only the revenue that we make here in the recent sports books, it's the hotel revenue and the taxi cab drivers and the airlines.

Schaap - Revenue that will soon evaporate, along with untold jobs, if a bill recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law. That bill, supported by the NCAA, would ban gambling on college sports, which is already illegal everywhere in the U.S. except Nevada.

Nevada's congressional delegation strongly opposes the ban.

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) - Illegal sports betting outside of the state of Nevada accounts for more than 98 percent of all money wagered on athletic events. Yet the NCAA has misrepresented this issue. They would like for the American public to believe that the problem lies with Nevada's legal gaming industry.

Schaap - Congressman Gibbons was testifying last month at a Nevada state hearing on the prospective federal legislation. But there and elsewhere, the NCAA has argued that betting on college sports is simply wrong.

Bill Saum, NCAA Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism activities - Placing legal wagers on games played by young people should not be permitted. The existence of any type of sports wagering, legal or illegal, on sporting events is a direct threat to the integrity of the contest.

We must remember that these are young people. Betting on their performances seems to be unseemly and inappropriate.

Schaap - But Nevada gaming officials and politicians say the only way to ensure the integrity of college football and basketball is to allow legalized betting to continue.

Brian Sandoval, Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman - If there's something untoward going on with a game, the game gets pulled off the board. The legal authorities are notified. The NCAA would be notified.

Schaap - Brian Sandoval is the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

The crux of the argument on your part is that college gambling should remain legal in Nevada because it helps police the industry of college sports.

Sandoval - Correct. And that's one of the arguments when certainly there are others. But that is a very important argument.

Schaap - Supporters of legalized gambling often cite the mid-1990s point shaving scandal involving Arizona State as an example of the gaming industry's ability to detect possible wrongdoing. A sudden shift in the betting line prompted gaming officials to tip off the FBI, which helped apprehend and prosecute the fixers.

Sandoval - We monitor these games. We monitor the lines. We protect the integrity of the games, which in turn protects the athletes.

Schaap - Basketball hall of famer Pete Newell has been coaching for more than 50 years. He agrees that banning betting on college sports would only help the fixers and the point shavers.

Pete Newell, Hall of Fame coach - There's an old Irish expression. You never want to trade the devil you know for the devil you don't. Now we know that this system is working pretty well now because we've had at least, not many exposed instances of games being tampered with. And it's more than a coincidence too that Las Vegas is the one that has been able to discern, discover, these irregularities.

Schaap - Newell was the coach at Cal Berkeley when point shaving scandals rocked college basketball in the early 1950s. He knows how deeply entrenched gambling in college sports remains and says the NCAA should reconsider its position.

Newell - I hope they don't go along on this because politically it's correct to say, "Boy, we've got to get rid of gambling." I understand that. But practically, can you do it? They haven't been able to do it.

Schaap - The betters and the sports books make the same point.

Unidentified Male - Everybody in their corner bar, in their office pool, is betting on the NCAA tournament. And the percentages of what's being bet in Las Vegas compared with the rest of the country is very, very small. So it's ridiculous to outlaw betting on college sports because it's going to happen anyway.

Lupo - It's going to be like prohibition. It's not going to stop gambling. And we need to focus on the aspects that are the problem, the illegal wagering, the betting on college campuses, the minors that are wagering all across the United States, not in Nevada, but in Ohio and Wisconsin, New York, and California, and all the states that make betting illegal.

Schaap - But the NCAA firmly rejects all those arguments.

Saum - This is not an arrogant comment, nor is it a stubborn comment. There is no wiggle room for the NCAA. There is no negotiating position that we can move the ball on legal sports wagering.

Schaap - The NCAA spokesman says that the argument that Nevada helps police what goes on in college sports is the same as suggesting that cocaine should be legalized in Las Vegas as an effective way to wage war on illegal drugs. You don't fight a practice that is illegal in 49 states by legalizing it in the fiftieth.

Sandoval - If you want to throw out analogies, the analogy that we think of is if you have a bank that's never been robbed in 30 years, and then someone says, "We don't need the security anymore, we don't need the cameras because it's never been robbed," would you do that? Of course you wouldn't.

The same thing with Nevada. We have no problems here. And we maintain a very effective system. There is no justification for removing that system.

Schaap - A bill similar to the bill introduced last month in the House of Representatives is expected to soon be introduced in the Senate, where the gaming industry is certain to use all of its powers to see that it's killed.

For Outside The Lines, I'm Jeremy Schaap.

Ley - Privately, Nevada gaming officials are in a damage control mode, conceding that public sentiment and the composition of this new Congress may make it more likely than before that college wagering could be taken off the legal sports books in that state.

Ahead this morning, we'll hear from a man spearheading the NCAA effort to confront gambling on college sports. But next, a man the NCAA would really like to put out of business, an illegal bookmaker and his take on the drive to take college games off the board in Las Vegas.

Ley - The campaign to ban college gambling in Las Vegas. Well, the vast majority of sports gambling in America estimates a range better than 98 percent placed with illegal bookmakers. And I am joined this morning by Jerry, who has been a bookmaker for 30 years, both offshore and here in the U.S. And we should note his voice is being electronically altered this morning.

Jerry, how did last night's games treat your business?

Jerry, Career Bookmaker - There should have been basketball -- college basketball before yesterday. I wish there wouldn't have been a wager taken. It was a bloodbath yesterday.

Ley - So a little bit of sympathy for the devil. The bookmaker confounded yesterday?

Jerry - That's correct. That's correct.

Ley - Let's talk about the move to ban college sports off the board in Vegas. Are you in support of this?

Jerry - Vegas, you know, as some people say, is the only real monitor that we have as far as tampering on college sports because when you hear people like Pete Newell make a comment what a good job everybody is doing because they only made two arrests this year, it goes to show you just -- I don't know where people like this are coming from.

The other comment I heard from Sandoval was that they recognize line movements and they do something about it. If you follow college sports at all, there's line movements every day in college basketball and college football that you bring people standing up.

Ley - You said, you mentioned only two arrests -- are you saying, and I'm not asking for you to be specific -- that there have been many more incidents of tampering than have been made public?

Jerry - Every week, even with the players or with the coaches giving out information about the pace of the ball game or people directly affecting the players. Every week, there's tampering in college sports.

Ley - Now, Kevin Pendergast, who is the former Notre Dame kicker who was convicted of orchestrating the Northwestern basketball fix, had he not been able to bet legally in Las Vegas, that fix would not have gone down.

Jerry - Possibly, in one isolated case. That could be true. The problem with athletes, young athletes, you take a 19- or 20-year-old student, and he's not going anywhere in the pros. He weighs 165 pounds, and he's running punts back, and he's a target. I mean, the kids aren't going anywhere. And unfortunately some of them are taking money.

Ley - Is there a relationship, though, between your illegal business and the legal business in Nevada? Bookmakers try and balance their action and win the big. So you lay off action. Do you lay off, or do people like you, lay off action to legal books in Vegas?

Jerry - No, no. We don't lay anything off, nothing at all.

Ley - What about the move by the NCAA? They've made a point of it in the past to refuse credentials to newspapers that publish betting lines, their effort to get betting lines out of the newspapers across America. You think that's a fruitful move?

Jerry - Well, maybe 10 years ago. But now all the betting lines are all over the Internet. I don't know whether going with this thing, it's like they're trying to stop betting on college sports in Nevada. Well, what percent of all moneys wagered on college sports take place in Nevada.

It's crazy. It's ludicrous. The only policing, even though it's totally ineffective, goes on in Nevada.

Ley - Is it in your benefit then to have honest games? People think of bookmakers, and they think of guys pulling the strings, tampering with games. Are you saying it's in your benefit to have clean and honest games?

Jerry - It would be in our benefit. But we're also smart enough now to recognize when certain games are moving in a fashion where we don't need Mr. Sandoval telling us there's something wrong with the game.

Ley - College sports. What part of the handle is it for you? What percentage? In Vegas, it's about 25 to 30 percent.

Jerry - Well, that's the interesting thing. College sports have never been a bargain for a bookmaker. I would just assume do away with them. The only thing college sports do is they allow you to retain clients to take you into the professional season.

If a player phones up and you say you're not going to take college sports, he's going to find somebody else. Well, I'd say college sports are 60 percent of the labor, 20 percent of the profits.

Ley - One of the great concerns certainly publicly and with the NCAA is the proliferation of college-age gamblers and college-age bookies. You have a sense of how many people 18 to 24 are betting with you?

Jerry - Eighteen to 24, none. But I know it goes on. And it's not to say that somebody who's taking from the 18-to-24-year-olds is not phoning me and phoning their bets into me. But I don't believe we have any 18-to-24-year-olds, no.

Ley - You do realize because you are outside the law how tough it will be for some people to put stock in exactly what you're saying about the entire issue?

Jerry - Well, you have to understand that I'm going to say at a sporting event, people are interested not only from a fan aspect, but financially. And unfortunately, as far as I'm concerned, if there wasn't gambling on these events, they wouldn't be successful. So I think a lot of people understand exactly where I'm coming from.

Ley - OK, Jerry, we appreciate you taking the time to be with us this morning. Next up, the NCAA will respond to Jerry and to the Nevada gaming industry on the issue of banning college gambling legal in Nevada.

Ley - Joining us this morning from Minneapolis, the site of the men's Final Four, is Bill Saum, the NCAA director of agent, gambling, and amateurism activities.

Well, Bill, you've heard the Nevada gaming point of view. You've heard an illegal bookie's point of view. What's wrong with what you heard?

Saum - Well, Bob, I think the most important point to start out of the box with here is that it's just inappropriate for adults to wager on young people. And there is no linkage at all. We don't want wagering anywhere near athletics. We want people to come to our games to watch the action and the reaction of the athletes, the coaches and the officials.

Ley - OK, but one percent, maybe three percent, of all the gambling in this country, happens with guys like Jerry. It does not happen at the Mirage or the Stardust or places like that. If you ban it in Vegas, it's still going on. It's the obvious question. I know you have an answer to that.

Saum - Well, Bob, we recognize that there's a lot of illegal wagering in this country. We recognize that it's occurring on our campus. And we've been out in front of that for the last six years. The casino industry has really just come to the table and began talking about the illegal side.

But one of the things that's been said a couple of times today is the security measures that they have in place in Nevada. And I think it's important to point out that their security measures are after the game is over. And certainly, they've helped to prosecute cases. But they've never stopped a sports bribery case from occurring.

Ley - Who will, then, if they don't have policing in effect? Will the NCAA?

Saum - Well, what we want to do is focus our attention on eliminating all gambling. That way there is no mixed message to our young people. There is no mixed message to society that it's OK in Nevada, it's not OK here.

Ley - All right...

Saum - We're going to clean up that message and work with law enforcement.

Ley - ... so if there's a mixed message now, I think you'd agree, you'd say there's a mixed message. It's legal in Nevada, 49 states make it illegal, how effective is the message that is sent if you get this bill through Congress, gambling is banned in Nevada, yet it's still going on to the tune of billions of dollars around the country. Isn't that still even a more of a mixed message?

Saum - I don't think so, Bob, because then we can concentrate our efforts totally on the illegal side. And we can work with law enforcement at the federal, state, and local level.

Ley - What is your budget? I've read that the NCAA budget for your position and for your anti-gambling activities is about $230,000.

Saum - Well, actually, Bob, it's interesting. I'll answer that question. But the casino industry is trying to throw stuff up against the wall to see if anything sticks. You know, it doesn't really matter what our budget is because we have a wonderful grassroots effort. We have people on every campus in America dealing with this from the president to the athletic director to the compliance officer to the coaches to the athletes. So we have thousands of people working on this.

Our budget is about a half-million dollars.

Ley - A half-million dollars out of about a $320 million NCAA budget?

Saum - Well, as you know, we return the majority of our moneys from the CBS contract to our schools. And the budget at the national office is only a couple of percentage points of the entire dollars.

Ley - Now, the Nevada gaming officials point this out as being an issue of policing the action. Isn't the real issue to your mind, though, their business? It is a bottom line issue for them.

Saum - Well, the casino industry is all about money. I mean, we always see the big buildings, the glamour, the glitz of Las Vegas. Everybody leaves their money behind in Las Vegas.

Ley - Are you outgunned in this battle because the Nevada casinos and the gaming industry in the last election cycle contributed by one account nearly $4 million soft money to both political parties? The NCAA is nonprofit. You cannot make such political contributions. Do you feel outgunned?

Saum - We're not outgunned from what's right. And that's why we will prevail on this, because we're doing what is right for our young people in the United States.

Now, are they going to donate more money? Sure, the casino industry is going to dump tons of money in Washington. But if they want, they can spend their money. We're going to discuss the issues.

Ley - Is this bill, though, largely symbolic given the amount of gambling that happens illegally in this country? And where does symbolism end and effectiveness begin?

Saum - Well, Bob, it's not a symbol. It's inappropriate to wager on athletics. And we're involved in this for the safety and integrity of our athletes. And we're involved in it for the safety and integrity of the game.

And there is no symbolism here. We need to send a clear message to America that it's inappropriate to wager on college athletics.

Ley - What about the prohibition analogy? You hear that all the time from the people in Nevada. I'm sure you see something wrong with that.

They tried banning alcohol in this country. It ended up being amended back into the constitution.

Saum - Well, Bob, I'll tell you, we have a lot more faith in the American people than the casino industry. Sure, it's legal in Nevada right now. If it is illegal tomorrow, we're not convinced that all those folks are going to run out and find an illegal bookie like your earlier interview.

Ley - But if you have faith in the American people, what about your faith in the 99 percent of them who vote illegally on sports now? Billions of dollars.

Saum - Well, we're disappointed that that occurs. But again, it's the mixed messages coming out of Las Vegas.

We're not going to ever stop all gambling. But what we have to do is send it a clear message to get away from our young people.

We were with a couple of our athletes yesterday that played in a tournament, a young man at Penn State. And he told me that people come up to him after games and say, "Hey, thanks a lot, you won me money," or, "Hey, I'm a little frustrated, I lost some money." That's an undue pressure on our young people.

Ley - Well, let me pick up on that because the University of Michigan had that study several years ago. And it was a frightening number, the most frightening to my mind, that five percent of the college athletes who were surveyed admitted to doing something, either talking to a bookie, shading points or a tell to compromise the integrity of the game.

When you combine that to what Jerry told us this morning, and he inferred very heavily that there have been a lot more tampers than we'll ever know about, do you believe that to be the case?

Saum - No, Bob, not at all. Obviously what we do believe is that our athletes, some of them, wager. We know that. We have several academic studies that state that.

And we're concerned about it. And that's why we have a great educational effort on our part with our young people.

But the games are square. If the games weren't square, the law enforcement people would be involved. We'd have more cases.

We work with the FBI very, very closely. The FBI is with us here in Minneapolis as we speak. And we are very, very at peace with where our college basketball and football games are.

Ley - You're saying, though, even though we've had a number of incidents through the '90s that there has been no tampering in your mind that has not been prosecuted?

Saum - Well, it would be na´ve to think that the world was perfect, especially if you have some percentage of our athletes that do wager. But we're convinced that the games are square.

Is there a possibility that there's a problem from time to time? That possibility exists simply because young people bet and because adults are betting on young people. But we feel very comfortable with the state of our game.

Ley - Last question, a quick one, Bill. Your gaming bill does not have the provisions now. The gaming industry bill has provisions in their proposed legislation to really put teeth into laws against illegal gambling. Yours is basically focused on Nevada. Why is that?

Saum - Well, because we've been dealing with illegal sports wagering for the last five years. The casino industry is just starting to talk about it.

Let's deal with one issue at a time. Let's make it illegal in the entire United States, on the internet, in Las Vegas. We'll center our attention on illegal sports wagering, work with law enforcement, and we'll slow this thing down.

Ley - Quickly, percentage. What's your chance of getting this bill through Congress? Give me a number.

Saum - Oh, I think it's well over 50 percent because the right thing will prevail. The American public wants this to occur. And the Congress will listen.

Ley - OK, Bill, I appreciate you taking the time to be with us. I know you're very busy on Final Four weekend. Bill Saum, thanks.

Saum - Thanks, Bob.

Ley - All right, next up, one week in the Bob Knight era at Texas Tech. We'll have your reaction to his arrival in Lubbock.

Ley - Friday, Bob Knight began to shape next year's Texas Tech team, dismissing three players and a fourth player asking to be released from his scholarship. Last week's look at Knight's move to Lubbock brought a number of reactions to our e-mail inbox.

From San Antonio - "I don't see what the big deal is with Bob Knight coming to Texas Tech or his actions at Indiana. Teaching kids to respect authority, the importance of making grades and graduating, making them part of a winning program do not sound to me like something a person should be fired for. So what if he loses his temper once in a while? Trust me, getting grabbed by the throat is not the worst thing that can happen to a person."

And from Glenolden, Pennsylvania - "Funny how they all seem to forget the bottom line here, that Knight demanded discipline of his Hoosiers on the court as well as loyalty off, but showed neither quality himself in the heat of battle or on the court. I just wonder how Knight will handle coaching the second-best hoops program at Texas Tech."

Those letters coming to our e-mail inbox. And as always, we look forward to your e-mail input online at ESPN.com, our address otlweekly@espn.com.

Ley - Today is the first anniversary for the Sunday morning Outside The Lines. And from all of us, thanks for making us part of your Sunday morning.

Over on ESPN at 4:00 Eastern today, the Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers with A-Rod opening the Major League Baseball season on ESPN with the women's national championship game, Purdue and Notre Dame beginning with pre-game at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Bob Ley. Now to Minneapolis with Dick Schaap and "The Sports Reporters."

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