Officials say point-spread gambling would corrupt game, tilt fans against their team
OREGON'S experiment with legalized, state-sponsored betting on professional sports is about to be expanded to include basketball. Unless, that is, the National Basketball Association blocks the shot in court with a lawsuit. Earlier this year, Oregon became the only state to sanction point-spread gambling on professional football games as part of its lottery. Proponents in the state legislature ordered the lottery commission to institute that type of gambling as a means of raising money for intercollegiate sports. So far, nearly $2 million out of $5 million in NFL betting here has been turned over to state schools.
That is a lot of money for a small state - especially one without a sales tax - where public and private income from the all-important timber industry is much in question these days. Lottery officials predict another $3.5 million in basketball betting-card sales this season and $19 million overall for intercollegiate athletics and scholarships during the next five years.
But not everyone here views pro sports betting as a windfall. The Portland Oregonian editorialized against ``a sleazy gambling scheme that extracts money from the poor and gullible.'' The newspaper finds the link between gambling and school sports particularly troublesome: ``Is the next step for Oregon college athletes to promote lottery ticket sales?''
Pro sports officials worry that basketball - with fewer players than football, and with a single player's performance perhaps more crucial to the outcome - could be especially susceptible to corruption.