House bill comes up ‘snake eyes’

Anyone who has ever gambled likely knows that the wisest advice pertaining to gambling is that the house always wins.

Therefore, it might be tempting to chalk up the Oregon House of Representatives’ passage of a bill intended to lure the potentially lucrative NCAA basketball tournaments to Oregon on Friday as a victory for sports enthusiasts, higher education and Oregon in general.

By terminating Oregon’s two “gambling-based” lottery games – Sports Action and Scoreboard – and preventing the creation of future games tied to the outcome of sporting events, House Bill 3466 would end state-sanctioned sports gaming in Oregon. This would remove what many observers have deemed the final obstacle impeding Oregon venues from bidding to host March Madness games.

For years the NCAA has refused to bid out basketball regionals to states with sports gambling, keeping Oregon, one of only four states to still have similar state-sponsored betting, on the outside looking in.

A spokesman for the NCAA told the Salem Statesman Journal that after eliminating such games Oregon “would have every opportunity to bid for championship events.”

Common sense supports backers of the bill who claim that Oregon is missing out on a tourism-fueled bonanza. They are also right in saying that the loss of the games and the approximately $2 million they create annually for sports programs at public universities like PSU would not be a big blow.

I love my 200-1 Sunday parlays as much as the next guy, but I’m sure both of us will find new ways to waste, I mean invest, our money.

Likewise, by directing 1 percent of overall lottery revenue to scholarships and athletic departments, estimates suggest HB 3466 would actually increase the amount of funding for higher education to as much as $9 million a year.

It’s easy to see why the House unanimously approved the bill and why many are lining up to send rose-print invitations to the NCAA begging them to come enjoy our Northwest hospitality.

I’d be glad to help with the invitations but am afraid that the HB 3466 sends another, less desirable, but perhaps equally important message. Something along the lines of, “Dear NCAA, Oregon is officially your bitch.”

It is important to remember that in the pantheon of hypocrisy the NCAA reigns supreme, making Jose Canseco, Onterrio Smith and our beloved Jail Blazers look like comedians at open-mike night.

If the folks over at NCAA headquarters are so concerned with gambling and the evil effects of money on sports why did they allow the 2000 women’s basketball regional to be played at Mac Court in Eugene? Eugene is in Oregon too, right? What about this year’s women’s golf championships played right here in Oregon at Sun River?

Flukes, you say.

Well then why is next year’s men’s golf championship returning to Sun River?

What about the fact that neither of the two games currently in Oregon do not allow betting on basketball, or even college sports?

Don’t forget, this is the same NCAA that is expanding the Bowl Championship Series – not to give America a true champion but to squeeze some more money out of its second most profitable enterprise, the college football postseason.

Knowing that March Madness is the only event that surpasses the BCS in stature, it becomes more apparent why Oregon hasn’t hosted any tourney games – money.

You can be sure that the NCAA would be on their knees polishing the Rose Garden floor and booking out the Heathman and the Governor hotels if there was more money to be made by playing in Portland.

The fact is the NCAA can make about as much money in a number of other cities. The bogus gambling rule just lets NCAA honchos make their money while claiming the moral high ground.

Instead of trying to do something about this hypocrisy, HB 3466 knocks Oregon to its knees and promises the NCAA we will lick its boots better than all the other states.

Maybe that’s smart politics. Maybe spineless subservience is a small price to pay for the economic bump hosting the tournament would bring.

Maybe, but here’s to the Senate folding the bad hand they’ve been dealt and waiting for a better hand to break the NCAA hypocrites.