Talk today may not only be centered on the new National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball champions, but how much was won and lost on the game.

In Nevada, the only state where it is legal to bet on professional and amateur sports events, the amount bet on the NCAA tournament are second only to the Super Bowl, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Nationally, authorities estimate about $5.2 billion is bet on the three-week March tournament, with about $100 million put down in Nevada casinos,” the Chronicle reported.

But Americans may not be so quick to fess up to placing wagers on the games, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Only 4 percent of Americans said they had bet on a tournament, either through a “pool with friends or coworkers,” or “by some other means.”
Gallup also found that only about 10 percent of college basketball fans bet on the tournament. Gallup attributed the surprisingly small number of people betting on the games to the fact that many people would not admit to betting on the games, especially if they had done so illegally.

The NCAA opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports betting, according to their website.

“Sports wagering has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests, and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community,” its site read. “Sports wagering demeans the competition and competitors alike by a message that is contrary to the purpose and meaning of ‘sport.'”

This attitude has pitted the NCAA against the powerful Nevada casino lobby in a battle in Congress that could lead to a ban on gambling on collegiate sports.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been fighting for the ban for three years, according to the Chronicle, and is likely to push for a full Senate vote on it now that his “epic” campaign-finance battle is over.

Until now, the gambling industry, which gave $11 million in congressional and presidential campaign contributions in 2000, has prevented McCain’s bill from passing the committee stage.

Those in support of the ban, contend that legal betting on amateur sports feeds illegal betting on campuses and on the Internet and leads to corruption of college athletes, the Chronicle reported.

Casino lobbyists see the ban as idealistic and believe it could push more amateur sports gambling underground.

According to Gallup, Americans are divided on the issue. In its March poll, Gallup found 49 percent said gambling on college sports should be illegal, while 47 percent said it should not be banned. Among college basketball fans the results were similar with 48 percent favoring a ban and 48 percent opposing it.

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