When the House begins debating an omnibus anti-crime bill this week, attention will be focused on expanding the federal death penalty, the denial of federal benefits to those convicted of drug offenses and weakening of the "exclusionary rule" that prohibits the use of illegally seized evidence in criminal trials.
But some of the most intense lobbying on the measure involves a little-noticed provision in the bill that would prohibit states from operating lottery games based on professional or amateur sporting events.Professional sports leagues and teams have launched a major effort to retain the lottery ban in the bill. Lawmakers from Oregon, the only state that has such a lottery, are backing an amendment that would strip the ban from the measure.
Pitted against the sports teams and leagues is a company that sells lottery equipment, and the association of state lottery directors, whose members are carefully watching Oregon's 1-year-old experiment with a sports lottery as a potential revenue source for state governments strapped for cash.
Both sides are using prominent Washington lobbying firms and pulling out all the stops in advance of this week's vote on the issue. Each side also accuses the other of hardball tactics.
Sources close to the Oregon delegation, for example, say that lawmakers have told Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., who is sponsoring the amendment, that they have been told their states could lose expansion franchises and that they could be denied coveted tickets to the Super Bowl if they don't vote to retain the prohibition. A spokesman for Rep. John Bryant, D-Texas, who sponsored the lottery ban, called that charge "nonsense."
Supporters of the ban, likewise, claim that Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, whose administration is considering a sports lottery, asked House Rules Committee Chairman J. Joseph Moakley, D-Mass., to provide some procedural sleight of hand that would strip the prohibition automatically when the bill is cleared for floor debate. Moakley said he considered - and ultimately rejected - that device, but said Dukakis had nothing to do with it.
What is clear is that prominent sports figures have inundated Capitol Hill with pleas to retain the ban. Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association have banded together in that effort.