Colleges mull pushing for share of legal wagering proceeds
By ERIC OLSON
AP College Football Writer
Monday, August 20
Concerned that expanded sports gambling will bring additional costs for ensuring their games are on the up-and-up, college athletic departments are looking for a way to get a piece of the action.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision in May allowed states across the country to join Nevada in having legalized sports betting. Since then, sports books have opened in Delaware, Mississippi and New Jersey. A West Virginia casino is set to take bets within two weeks, with other states not far behind.
Schools in states where legal wagering has started or soon will are considering joining professional sports leagues in pursuing legislation requiring sports book operators to pay them a cut of the amount wagered on their games. College officials say the “integrity fees” would help fund beefed-up programs educating athletes about unscrupulous activities associated with gambling and monitoring betting lines for possible game fixing or point shaving.
The American Gaming Association, which lobbies on behalf of the gambling industry, opposes integrity fees because they would be piled on top of state and federal taxes that cut into profit margins. Also, the AGA says, the pressure of paying integrity fees would result in operators offering less attractive odds than a bettor could get from an illegal bookmaker.
Legal sports books keep about 5 percent of the total money bet, and the proposed integrity fee typically is 1 percent. That would mean 20 percent of the profit would go to the recipients of the fees, said Sara Slane, the AGA’s senior vice president of public affairs.
“It’s absolutely absurd. There is no business that would agree to that,” she said. “It’s not going to accomplish ultimately what I think the leagues would like to see, even the colleges would like to see, which is to have regulated, legalized sports betting and consumers partaking in that platform versus continuing down the path of the illegal market.”
There are no known estimates for how much money integrity fees might raise for an individual school, which would receive fees based on the amount of money legally wagered on its games.
“You’re not talking about millions of dollars,” said Andy Humes, executive associate athletic director for compliance and administration at Missouri. The state in 2019 likely will continue debate on gambling legislation that began this year.
Professional leagues contend they’re entitled to integrity fees because sports books are making money off their product and, with more wagering opportunities, the leagues must devote more resources to monitor betting lines for unusual activity.
The NBA and Major League Baseball led an effort in New York to secure a 1 percent integrity fee — eventually reduced to one-quarter of 1 percent — but the bill didn’t make it to the floor before the session ended in June.
While integrity fees have been a non-starter so far, universities that deal with unpaid athletes and are politically well connected in their states aren’t discouraged. West Virginia lawmakers probably will revisit integrity fees next year.
Athletic directors Shane Lyons of West Virginia and Mike Hamrick of Marshall attended a May meeting where integrity fees were discussed. Both said they want their expenses offset for the extra monitoring of athletes and educating them on risks associated with gambling.
“I think at some point, someone has to say we’ve got to help the two universities in this state to make sure they don’t become another Boston College or a Northwestern,” Hamrick said, referring to past point-shaving scandals at other colleges.
Hamrick said he would be able to hire additional compliance staffers immediately if colleges receive compensation. He also would bring in speakers to talk to the athletes.
“The pros that come in, they’re expensive,” Hamrick said. “You could go as far as working with the university to maybe have a class the kids have to take on a regular basis.”
Lyons said there was little consultation with WVU and Marshall when the state legislature passed the sports gambling bill this year.
“The ramifications of that are placed upon me,” Lyons said. “As the director of athletics of West Virginia University, my job is to protect the integrity of this department. The last thing I want is for one of my athletes to be involved in any type of issue with sports betting.”
Hamrick knows about the casino industry. He was UNLV’s AD for six years before coming to Marshall in 2009 and said a sports bookmaking operation was located across the street from UNLV’s football practice facility.
Hamrick said an athletic compliance staffer would watch after games to see who was waiting to talk to the players. And players who drove cars on campus were required to register their license plate with the university so the athletic department knew who owned the cars.
“Maybe that’s overdoing it. But I was very paranoid, that I wasn’t going to let something happen underneath my watch,” Hamrick said. “What you’re concerned about is the wrong person getting to one of your student-athletes.”
Sports wagering began in Mississippi this month, and officials are discussing whether they want to pursue integrity fees.
“This will require additional funding from our athletic department, it will require additional staffing and it will require a lot of education — not only on the part of our student-athletes but on the part of our fans, on the part of the relatives of our recruits and for our administration,” Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen said. “It’s a big responsibility. Obviously, it’s not something we’ll take lightly.”
Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said integrity fees would go toward compliance and athlete education and that talk about making money off gambling would be “a losing conversation.”
Rutgers (New Jersey) and Penn State did not respond to Associated Press requests for comment on integrity fees and the University of Pittsburgh declined comment. A casino operator on Friday began the application process for a license to offer sports betting in Pennsylvania.
The NCAA declined comment to the AP, though it has said it would not pursue integrity fees for itself and that it continues to oppose to any wagering, legal or otherwise.
Anthony Cabot, a longtime gambling industry attorney, said the NCAA — not individual schools — should take the lead in ensuring sports integrity by creating a division that works exclusively with sports book operators to look for irregular betting patterns.
“We really do need a national system to protect the integrity of the games, and how much a single university could contribute to that is somewhat limited,” Cabot said.
Cabot said the NCAA would be like “ostriches with their heads in the sand” if it doesn’t initiate an overarching integrity program of its own.
“Whether sports wagering is legal or illegal, it’s rampant,” he said. “So to say we’re going to ignore this because we don’t like gambling is to ignore you had this significant industry that can impact the integrity of your games. To do nothing about it is, I think, irresponsible.”
AP Sports Writers John Raby and David Brandt contributed.
For more AP college football coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
Ride-Hailing Costs Twice as Much as Car Ownership
Even with high parking costs, car ownership cheaper for urbanites
COLUMBUS, Ohio (August 21, 2018) – Ride-hailing services are not a cost-effective replacement for vehicle ownership, according to a new AAA analysis. Relying on ride-hailing services as a primary mode of transportation would cost an urban driver an average of $20,118 annually. This equates to more than twice the cost of owning a personal vehicle, even when factoring in the expense of fuel, insurance, parking and the vehicle itself.
“Whether you own a vehicle or not, ride-hailing services are a convenient transportation option,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director, Automotive Engineering and Repair. “However, with the average American city dweller driving nearly 11,000 miles per year, a personal vehicle is still the more cost-effective choice.”
With the rising popularity of ride-hailing services, some living in urban settings question whether ride-hailing is a viable alternative to owning and operating a vehicle. To help answer this question, AAA analyzed the costs of ride-hailing services in 20 cities, and compared them with the cost of owning and operating a vehicle in an urban environment.
Vehicle Ownership Costs:
Previous AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research found those that self-identify as living in a city drive an average of 10,841 miles annually.
According to data from AAA’s annual Your Driving Costs study, the average annual cost to own and operate a new vehicle is $7,321 for 10,841 miles of travel annually.
Parking costs can add an average of $2,728 to those expenses, raising the total to $10,049 to own and operate a vehicle in the city.
Based on the average number of miles traveled by city dwellers, the cost to replace a personal vehicle with ride-hailing services, supplemented with a rental car for longer trips, is $20,118 per year. Costs for specific cities include:
New York $21,279
Salt Lake City $18,866
San Diego $17,316
San Francisco $21,972
Los Angeles $17,951
Washington, D.C. $21,093
“For those who travel a very limited number of miles annually, or have mobility issues that prevent them from driving a personal vehicle, ride-hailing can be a viable and important option,” continued Nielsen. “But, for everyone else, the car is still king.”
Vehicle owners looking to minimize their operating costs should consider the following:
Buy (gently) used – Depreciation is the single largest expense for vehicle owners. By driving a preowned vehicle in good condition, ownership costs are significantly lower. A safe, reliable vehicle can be found at an attractive price point.
Fuel responsibly – Avoid wasting money on premium gasoline unless your vehicle specifically requires it and, if you’re one of the 20 percent of Americans considering an electric car, these vehicles offer lower fuel and maintenance costs.
Show your car some love – It sounds counter intuitive, but spending money on routine maintenance can actually save you money in the end. To keep engines running longer, consider switching to synthetic oil and upgrading to TOP TIER™ gasoline.
Slow down – When gas prices are high, small changes in the way you drive can make a big difference.
To determine the average number of miles traveled by a city-dweller, AAA’s analysis leveraged data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s American Driving Survey. AAA’s Your Driving Costs data served as the basis for all car ownership calculations, factoring in depreciation, fuel, maintenance, repair, financing, insurance, license, registration costs and taxes. Total cost of ride-hailing is based on data from 243,838 economy-level, single rider trips in 20 U.S. urban areas and does not factor in costs associated with carpooling or multi-modal transportation options. On average, those using ride-hailing services spent an average of $13.15 per trip, spending 15.11 minutes and traveling 6.66 miles. Ride-hailing costs include the occasional use of rental vehicles for longer distance travel. Full methodology can be found in the study’s fact sheet available at http://Newsroom.AAA.com.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel-, insurance-, financial- and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited online at AAA.com.
Venezuelan oil fueled the rise and fall of Nicaragua’s Ortega regime
August 21, 2018
Associate Professor of Sociology, Fort Lewis College
Benjamin Waddell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The downfall of Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has been dizzyingly fast.
In January 2018, he had the highest approval rating of any Central American president, at 54 percent. Today, Nicaraguans are calling for Ortega’s resignation.
Ortega, a former Sandinista rebel who previously ruled Nicaragua in the 1980s, first showed signs of weakness in early April, when students protested his mismanagement of a massive forest fire in Nicaragua’s biggest nature reserve.
By April 19, hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans, including former Ortega supporters, joined the demonstrations, after his government rammed through an unpopular social security reform.
Since then, police officers and pro-government forces have killed more than 450 protesters and injured at least 2,500.
Demonstrators have been calling for Ortega’s resignation since April. Reuters/Oswaldo Rivas
In an echo of Nicaragua’s past, foreign money has contributed to the country’s current unrest. In the 1970s, the U.S. supported the regime of Gen. Anastasio Somoza – a brutal dictator who was eventually overthrown by Ortega and his revolutionary peers in 1979’s Sandinista Revolution.
This time, it’s not the U.S. that’s supporting an unpopular Nicaraguan dictator, it’s Venezuela.
Oil diplomacy from Venezuela
I am a former Nicaraguan resident, who was recently forced out of the country by violence. I am also a scholar of Latin America’s political economy. And my research in Nicaragua suggests that Venezuelan oil money helps explain Ortega’s rise – and his current fall.
Ortega was re-elected to the presidency in 2007 after two decades out of power. At the time, he was one of many left-leaning leaders in the region.
Venezuela, then led by the socialist leader Hugo Chávez, immediately began sending billions of dollars worth of cheap oil – its biggest export and most valuable commodity – to Nicaragua. According to Nicaraguan economist Adolfo Acevedo, between 2007 and 2016, Venezuela shipped US$3.7 billion in oil to Nicaragua.
“Oil diplomacy” was standard practice in Venezuela at the time. In the early 2000s, Venezuela was one of Latin America’s richest countries. Chávez used his economic brawn to support allies in Cuba, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil by sending them financial aid and cheap crude.
Venezuela offered the Ortega regime unusually favorable terms of trade. His government paid 50 percent of the cost of each shipment within 90 days of receipt. The remainder was due within 23 years and financed at 2 percent interest.
This cheap fuel was distributed at market prices by Nicaragua’s government gas company, DNP. The government’s nice profit margin helped spur a period of remarkable economic growth in Nicaragua.
Between 2007 and 2016, Ortega’s government spent nearly 40 percent of oil proceeds to bolster ambitious social welfare programs, including micro-financing for small businesses, food for the hungry and subsidized housing for the poor.
These initiatives contributed to significant poverty reductions across Nicaragua, earning Ortega and his Sandinista party widespread popular support.
Between 2007 and 2017, Nicaragua’s gross domestic product grew at an average of 4.1 percent a year. The boom peaked in 2012, with a stunning 6.4 percent growth in GDP.
The year before, Venezuela had sent a record $557 million in oil to Nicaragua – the equivalent of 6 percent of the Central American country’s total gross domestic product.
Ortega’s oil wealth
Beyond jump-starting the Nicaraguan economy, Venezuelan oil also directly benefited the Ortega family.
DNP, Nicaragua’s national oil distributor, is managed by Ortega’s daughter-in-law, Yadira Leets Marín.
According to investigative reporting by the Nicaraguan newspaper Confidencial, the 60 percent of earnings from Venezuelan oil sales not spent on social programs – roughly $2.4 billion – was channeled through a Venezuelan-Nicaraguan private joint venture called Albanisa, run by President Ortega’s son, Rafael Ortega.
The funds were invested in shadowy private businesses controlled by the Ortega family, including a wind energy project, an oil refinery, an airline, a cellphone company, a hotel, gas stations, luxury condominiums and a fish farm.
There is no public accounting of Albanisa’s investments or profits. But according to Albanisa’s former deputy manager, Rodrigo Obragon, who spoke with Univision in May, President “Ortega used Albanisa to buy everybody off in a way never seen before in the history of Nicaragua.”
Ortega’s personal wealth is unconfirmed. But reliable sources, including the Wall Street Journal, say that his family has amassed one of the largest fortunes in the country.
Chávez greets Ortega during a welcoming ceremony in Caracas. Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
An uphill battle
Ortega’s landmark social programs, coupled with the lucrative business ventures that allowed him to buy support, made him the most powerful Nicaraguan leader since Somoza.
During his 11 years in office, Ortega has abolished presidential term limits, installed his wife as vice president and banned opposition parties from running in elections.
In late 2015, plummeting global oil prices sent Venezuela’s mismanaged economy into recession, and then into a full-on collapse.
Chávez’s successor, President Nicolás Maduro, was forced to cut back on oil diplomacy. As a result, in 2017 and 2018 his government sent no oil shipments at all to Nicaragua.
In effect, Ortega had to cut his landmark anti-poverty programs, eliminate subsidies on public utilities and raise gas prices at the pump.
Support for his regime eroded quickly after that.
Like the dictator he helped oust three decades ago, Ortega has relied on foreign money to buy his way through challenges. Now that Venezuelan money has dried up, he’s got little left to offer his people – one more reason, protesters say, Ortega’s time is up.