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Basketball - Men's College

Betting on March Madness payoff

    Call it the new March Madness: trying to determining Oregon’s reward for hosting the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in three weeks.

    The arrival of college sports’ biggest show may not be quite the economic bonanza some imagine. It also seems unlikely to be a dud, as some economists envision, because of the national recession. The reality will likely be somewhere in between, but most — including leading Oregon lawmakers — say it is worth the gamble.

    When the Oregon Legislature did away with the Sports Action lottery game in 2005, it cleared the way for the NCAA Tournament to return for the first time since 1983. But since that move, the state’s budget has dug itself a projected $3 billion hole. In hindsight, bringing March Madness — and its fleeting revenue — at the expense of a lottery game and its consistent revenue — may seem like a crazy idea.

    “Everything’s going south on us,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. “But no, I don’t have any misgivings about it. We love our basketball here.”

    Tournament games return to Oregon this year for the first time since 1983, and to Portland for the first time since 1975. Follow along as The Oregonian counts down to the tournament.

    And many others who love basketball will come here for the tournament. The eight schools that draw Portland seeds for the first- and second-round games at the Rose Garden on March 19 and 21 will have a total allotment of 6,800 tickets. Toss in a few hundred NCAA officials, future hosts, broadcast partners and corporate types, and it should fill many hotels and restaurants.

    Drew Mahalic of the Oregon Sports Authority, which pushed for the legislation to bring the NCAAs back after its 26-year hiatus, said what he projects to be $10 million in economic impact, along with the possibility of future NCAA events, make trading betting for basketball a no-brainer.

    — Excerpt from The Oregonian, February 26, 2009


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