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Senator: Ban Backers Off Base

A high-ranking Senator has some advice for Dean Smith: "Stick to coaching."

"There are some wonderful people who are well-meaning, but they are being brainwashed by the NCAA," Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said Thursday from Washington.

Smith, the former North Carolina basketball coach, rallied support on Capitol Hill this week to ban betting on college sports. The measure, which cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, proposes to end legal betting on NCAA sports at Nevada casinos.

"We're talking about something that can taint young people," Smith said.

He said the ban would not hurt Las Vegas casinos because they can still take bets on professional sports.

"It isn't like they aren't making enough money," said Smith, college basketball's career victory leader.

Reid, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate and the minority whip, said Smith is misinformed.

"Dean Smith knows nothing about the entertainment business or gambling," Reid said. "He is a coach. He should stick to coaching."

"These NCAA goofs are running around telling people if we don't have a betting line in Las Vegas, there won't be one anymore. But it's not true. All the major publications say they will continue to publish the lines," he told The Associated Press.

In Indianapolis, NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro said while the proposed legislation would not stop gambling on college campuses, it was "an important step" in that direction.

"It doesn't make much sense to undertake the fight against illegal gambling if you don't address all the issues," he said.

Reid and other opponents of the bill say it would do nothing to stem the problem of gambling on college campuses.

"This is an illegal bookmakers dream come true," Reid said after the Judiciary Committee approved the bill Wednesday night.

"This bill makes Nevada a scapegoat for rampant problems with illegal gambling problems the NCAA has done nothing to solve. This bill will only serve to drive more gamblers to illegal bookies. It will not protect athletes or prevent corruption in college sports," he said.

Renfro said the NCAA has "an aggressive educational plan" that includes visits to campuses to talk about illegal wagering, and works with coaches, administrators and law enforcement agencies to discourage players from gambling.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said this week that Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi assured the bill's supporters they will get a chance this year to muster 60 votes to break a filibuster by Nevada's senators.

Reid said he is concerned about the ability of Nevada's delegation to block the proposed ban.

Reid helped keep the bill from coming to a vote on the Senate floor earlier this month. He said if the Nevadans can delay action on the measure until next year, they might change the minds of sombackers.

"So that when we go into it next year, it won't be the slam dunk people think that it is," he said.

Reid declined to say Thursday whether he would mount a filibuster to prevent a Senate vote or what else he would consider.

"I'm concerned," he said. "But I've got lots of arrows in my quiver."

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