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Oregonians could bet on college sports under bill proposed by Senate President

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The Oregon Lottery could offer betting on college sports, including football, under a bill being pushed by Senate President Peter Courtney.

The Oregon Lottery could offer gamblers the chance to bet on college sports under a bill being considered in Salem.

Currently, the Lottery will let you wager on professional contests around the world. But college sports are off limits. Senate Bill 1503, under consideration in the Senate Rules Committee, would change that.

Its sponsor is Senate President Peter Courtney. The Salem Democrat testified that people are already betting on college sports using websites that operate outside the law.

“Illegal betting can be dangerous for Oregonians," he said. "These illegal websites are not regulated and can expose (gamblers) to potential fraud or theft.”

Courtney said he supports an amendment to the bill that would place betting on the performance of individual college athletes off-limits. Another proposed amendment would dedicate the revenue from college sports betting to scholarships for low-income Oregonians through a program called the Opportunity Grant Fund.

A lobbyist for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde spoke against the measure, saying it would siphon revenue from tribally-operated casinos.

“The reality here is this would be taking money out of tribes’ pockets," said Justin Martin. "We need to take a pause and study this and look at the right way to do things in Oregon moving forward.”

Groups that oppose gambling expansion of any kind also testified against the measure.

One member of the panel, Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, said he'd favor an amendment to prohibits bets on Oregon-based universities. But Courtney said he didn't see the need to make a distinction between games involving in-state teams and games that didn't involve in-state teams.

A lobbyist for the University of Oregon, who said he was also speaking on behalf of Oregon State University, said the two schools are neutral on the bill, but that if it moved forward, they would strongly support the amendment that would ban wagering on the performance of individual athletes.

The Senate Rules Committee did not act on the bill during Tuesday’s hearing.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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