Oregon Sports Action Laid to Rest

Carla Hanson

By Carla "KC" Hanson of Portland, Oregon. KC describes herself as a "progessive activist, small business operator and avid sports fan!"

Oregon Sports Action is gone. Although the death certificate won’t be officially issued until July 1, its last breath was drawn when the clock expired in Super Bowl 41. The 2005 Legislature overwhelmingly voted to abolish Sports Action, hoping to encourage the NCAA to end its Oregon freeze-out.

The primary forces behind 2005's HB 3466 were not gambling prohibitionists, but the Oregon Restaurant Association, the Portland Business Alliance, and the Oregon Sports Authority. OSA’s Drew Mahalic sees future bigger fish as his organization is actively lobbying Major League Baseball to move their next displaced franchise to the Rose City. MLB, while not as strident as the NCAA, would rather not move a team to a state with legal sports betting.

While Sports Action has been a small fraction of the Oregon Lottery's net proceeds (around 2-2.5 million a year), the money is proportionally divied up around the State, earmarked for education. Education won't lose funding since the projected lost revenue will be replaced by a higher cut of other Lottery money, but this is still 2 million that won't flow into State coffers.

Potential tax revenues from occasional big time sporting events are, at this point, like painting the wind. The first event is more than 2 years away when Portland hosts the 1st and second rounds of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. No venue in Oregon can host a Regional or Final 4 because no arena in the state has the required capacity.

Further, while Portland metro hospitality businesses will enjoy a tidy profit during the occasional event, the 33 other counties in the state will hear nary a whisper of gratitude. Maybe a tavern in Bend or a lounge in Eugene received only a nominal cut of the Sports Lottery revenues, but Action brought in a few more customers who’d buy food and beverage... and every little bit helps when you're running a small business.

Oregon lawmakers were convinced that releasing the bird in their grasp was worth pursuing the two in the bush. I wonder how long it will take to catch even the first one.

Comments

  • Jonathan (unverified)
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    I'm not usually rabid with BlueOregon comments. But with that disclaimer, this post deserves a rant.

    Thank God for small and perhaps meaningless victories. The lottery -- of all forms, whether poker, sports action, anything -- is addictive and evil. It plays on people's addictions, and victimizes that segment of society that sees a better chance at winning the lottery than just working and saving to build a better life. (Should I use this dollar to pay down a 22% interest rate credit card, or try to put the dollar into savings, or should I just take a stab at millions?) At least one subtle message about qualms from sports teams and the NCAA is that implicitly, we all recognize the unseemly nature of gambling.

    But we're addicted. Our coffers are flush with this cancer-like money, and we don't know how to get out of the cycle. Would any sane person create a revenue system dependent on gambling? Of course not, any more than they would invent cigarettes just so the cigarettes could be taxed to pay for universal health care. Knowing how gambling preys upon those who are least able to part with cash, and preys upon those who are addicted to it, progressives should universally seek ways to downsize our state's short-sighted and destructive reliance on gambling revenue of all kind.

  • Russell (unverified)
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    This is complete BS. If "progressives should universally seek ways to downsize our state's short-sighted and destructive reliance on gambling revenue of all kind", then go after the biggies. The video poker, megabucks, etc. I only bet on football - I loved sports action. One ticket for two dollars, once a week to add a little excitement to a game as bad as the Cardinals and the 49ers...And it's such a small part of the oregon lottery system.

    "The lottery -- of all forms, whether poker, sports action, anything -- is addictive and evil."

    Addictive to a whole 1 percent of the population?? Yeah, it's addictive, like alcohol and tobacco...Jonathan, it's called MODERATION...

  • (Show?)

    I like gambling, and I'm not addicted. Activities with no inherent risk--which includes gambling--should not be within the purview of government to prevent, IMO. Regulate, tax, monitor? Absolutely. But taking away my right to wager because a minority of wagerers find the behavior addicting does not square with my reading of the constitution.

    Besides, if you don't think at LEAST 2 mil of gambling, legal and otherwise, will occur when Portland brings March Madness to town...!

  • (Show?)

    Easy there, TJ. No one is messing with your "right to wager". Sports Action was a government-run gambling program.

    Personally, I think this is all a bit silly - both ways. Sports Action wasn't causing any damage, and watching it go away doesn't hurt anything.

    I love football. I love gambling. I love gambling on football. I found Sports Action idiotic.

    But let's not suggest that abolishing a government-run gambling program is akin to preventing your right to gamble.

  • (Show?)

    Uh, Kari? If Oregon no longer sponsors SportsAction, my ability to wager on football legally is prevented, is it not? House-based sports gambling is illegal in Oregon--except for pro football, until a week ago.

  • Russell (unverified)
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    "I love football. I love gambling. I love gambling on football. I found Sports Action idiotic."

    First, you make no sense. Sports Action was a program for gambling on football...

    Second, TJ said:

    "House-based sports gambling is illegal in Oregon--except for pro football, until a week ago."

    So Kari - where do you place your bets?

  • (Show?)

    Good riddance.

    It will be nice to have first and second round March madness back in Oregon once in a while again.

    Consider the 1983 tournament that featured what many would count as the most memorable tournament run ever. With their coach suffering from the flu and a 104 degree fever, the NC State Wolfpack won the championship by beating a highly favored Houston team featuring Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwan in a two point nail-biter.

    The Wolfpack began that amazing tournament run with a double overtime victory over Pepperdine and then a one point win over UNLV both of those games played in ... Corvallis. The friend who used my ticket to watch that amazing team is now 80-something years old and still talks about how incredible it was.

  • Russell (unverified)
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    "Good riddance.

    It will be nice to have first and second round March madness back in Oregon once in a while again."

    Yes yes...It's great to see that the NCAA has enough power to influence an entire state's channel of revenue. I love watching UNC beat Binghamton by 50 points, but it's always better to pay $30 per seat for the privilege of seeing it in person. Of course the NCAA still wields supreme power over the state's revs; it's quite the small slice of revenue, and yes, 'gambling is the devil', but seriously folks, if you want to see an NCAA B-Ball game go to Corvallis or Eugene. If you want to see a tournament game, travel to Boise.

    If abolishing Sports Action would lead to Portland acquiring an NFL team, then I'm all for it and I'd go to all eight games! If this is not the case, then leave Sports Action alone.

  • (Show?)

    "I love watching UNC beat Binghamton by 50 points, but it's always better to pay $30 per seat for the privilege of seeing it in person."

    "If you want to see a tournament game, travel to Boise."

    At least make your arguments consistent. You complain about paying $30 for a ticket but it costs considerably more than that to go to Boise for a game.

    It's a nonstarter of an argument anyway--one might just as well say "If you want to bet on football go to Nevada."

  • Robert Ted Hinds (unverified)
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    Above and beyond whether or not you liked Sports Action, you have to ask, what about a state's right to decide it's own policies? Why should big business use the carrot and stick to mess with a little state's Sports Action program? If it's that kind of problem, maybe the NFL, MLB, etc., should insist on TV blackouts of games in the state of Nevada when they write their contracts with the networks? Repeating question mark... Moment of awkward silence... Eyeballs on the ceiling... Exactly, it's not about some moral axiom for the leagues, it's a petty control issue on the part of big business not wanting some pipsqueak taxpayers in Oregon deciding to get revenue from a professional sports monopoly like the NFL. NBA Sports Action didn't end because David Stern didn't like it and threatened to take the Blazers away, it ended because nobody bought it. That's different.

    Maybe we should keep Sports Action and divert the revenue into a legal fund to challenge the big leagues' right to refuse consideration for something like a sports franchise or event, because they don't like a state's law, in federal court. Even if as a progressive you disapprove of gambling, you've got to like the the idea of setting legal precedent for what corporations can and can't do to shape laws which are left by the US Constitution to the voters of a state to decide. Now that's a battle worth fighting.

  • (Show?)

    Ted's pretty much hit the mark - and the point of my commentary, but I would give the Major League Sports a bit of an out. They have a product that only can go into a very limited number of markets, and they weigh a plethora of factors in evaluating a potential major league city. While major sports orgs. cast disdain on legal sports gambling, (NFL spokesmen have even publically said no team would move to a location w/ sports betting on the NFL), the limited availability of their product allows them to be, well, a bit of a pain in the rear.

    As far as powerful sports organizations go, the NCAA is the nasty player. The NCAA dictated to Oregon that no championship tourney in any sport would ever occur in our little state as long as we bet on pro football. Period. State lawmakers gave in, and now the only NCAA money-maker the state can possibly host is more than 2 years away.

    In the long run, though, Lawmakers didn't make the decision soley on the demands issued by the NCAA. Lawmakers were gambling that they could hedge the bet a bit on getting a major sports franchise into Oregon.

    Ironically, some of the same folks who've wrung their hands about gambling, and sports betting in particular, will complain about another major sports team coming to town.

    Bet on it.

  • (Show?)

    On gambling in general:

    While I even noted "...The primary forces behind 2005's HB 3466 were not gambling prohibitionists..." the vitriolic anti-gambling voice nevertheless wrung out with the typical lame arguments and assumptions. Sadly, during the testimony in 2005, similar baseless claims were made. Again, those making the claims were not gambling abolitionists, but Portland business interests who had (apparently) no expertise in any sociological study regarding gambling.

    Simply put, they and the blogger above are repeating bumpersticker phrases and blowing' smoke.

    "...gambling preys upon those who are least able to part with cash..." No, gambling is universally attractive to the full range of folks. Unfortunately, ANYTHING - gambling, inflated gas prices, higher prices for an avacado - burdens those more who earn less. The claim that a disproportionate amount of the state's Sports Action or other Lottery income comes from the poor lacks any empirical evidence.

    "State sponsored gambling leads to illegal gambling..." (from 2005) No evidence shows this; in fact the opposite may be true. Since the advent of state lotteries on the east coast decades ago, illegal numbers running has dimminished to almost nothing.

    This argument has often been used in relation to the potential for sports-shaving schemes, but the reality is that the most heinous of scandels have occurred in relation to illegal bookmaking. In the early 50's, point shaving scandels destroyed basketball programs in the New York City area, leading to the arrests of 32 players.

    Gambling is "evil" and a "cancer". 2/3 of Americans self-report to have made some type of wager. No one is disputing that some folks will fall into the category of the problematic, addicted gambler, but the vast majority are social gamblers who would hardly descibe their entertainment as "evil."

    It's estimated that over 380 billion dollars a year is spent in this country on illegal gambling. Gambling has been around since Grog and Thork could wager their spears on who'd make the first kill of the hunt. You can unsheath that Don Quixote-like sword all you want, Jonathon, but folks will gamble, much like they'll drink and eat too durn many twinkies.

    ...and just try and waggle that rightous sword of yours at your pal who's filling out his March Madness bracket next month....

  • (Show?)

    I wrote: "I love football. I love gambling. I love gambling on football. I found Sports Action idiotic."

    Russell asked, First, you make no sense. Sports Action was a program for gambling on football...

    Yeah, but using their particular method -- betting only the line, a minimum of three games, with terrible odds... I found it dumb.

    TJ wrote, "House-based sports gambling is illegal in Oregon--except for pro football, until a week ago."

    Russell asked, So Kari - where do you place your bets?

    Actually, I mostly do fantasy football. Under the law, it's not technically gambling. (It's a game of skill.) I was using "gambling" in the casual sense, not the strict legal one.

  • Eric (unverified)
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    If you want to gamble on football there are plenty of online places to do it that are way better than Sports Action. I agree with Kari, it was lamely constructed.

  • (Show?)

    Kari, I play fantasy ball too. It's not gambling because there's no house. And because there's no house, you cannot get odds. And odds are what make gambling, gambling IMO.

    (and as an aside, fantasy games require some skill to do well in, but they too are mostly games of luck. Baseball with daily transactions are as close as fantasy comes to skill, for the sheer amount of game data used. 13 or 14 NFL games' worth in a typical fantasy football game, makes it mostly luck).

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