He suggests a federal framework that allows states to legalize sports betting. He says new regulations would help prevent underage betting while educating those with a gambling problem about how to bet responsibly.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says it’s time for a new approach to betting on sports.
Sports leagues have long opposed gambling on games, claiming it creates incentives for game-fixing. It is currently only legal in Nevada; New Jersey is moving toward legalization — against the opposition of all four major pro sports leagues.
Silver says new laws would have to protect the integrity of the sports.
In an op-ed article for The New York Times published online on Thursday, Silver says fans should have a safe and legal way to gamble on professional games
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Sen. Discussions on the issue have been taking place between the owners for several years, but until the other leagues come on board, it remains complicated for owners like Ted Leonsis of the Washington Wizards. Leonsis also owns the Washington Capitals of the NHL.
Silver said the NBA is not currently taking an active legislative approach, but others are. And that is happening now in the state of Nevada; so we have relationships with the betting companies in Las Vegas, so that we are notified if there’s any irregular activity. Silver said the Donaghy scandal helped shape his new thinking on the legalization of sports betting.
“We’re not ready to take a position on which model is the right one for the NBA,” Silver said.
“I have talked to the commissioners in the other leagues about [legalizing sports betting],” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an exclusive interview with ESPN The Magazine in late January at the league’s Manhattan office. “We do know that the more information that is centrally aggregated, the better chance we’ll have of spotting irregular activity on our sport. Minnesota state representative Phyllis Kahn has told ESPN that she’ll be introducing a similar bill early in this legislative session. John McCain, speaking last week on ESPN podcast “Capital Games,” said he also believes it’s time for Congress to hold hearings to discuss legalizing sports betting.
The NBA is not the only professional league in the United States taking a close look at sports betting legalization.
“The Donaghy controversy also made me aware how important it is that we have a way of monitoring irregular activity on our games,” Silver said. “I leave it to them to make any public statements they want to make on it. Donaghy admitted to betting on games he officiated and passing along inside information to gamblers. “I think most of our owners’ view on the issue is that they’re comfortable with us taking a leadership position on the issue, but again are also mindful that it’s a complex issue, and is one that will ultimately require a legislative remedy, and not one that is necessarily at the top of their to-do list, in terms of active lobbying.”. According to Whelan’s office, the NBA responded and expressed interest in discussing the issue, but has not followed up.
In addition, two U.S. But we’re also aware that that’s a minuscule percentage of the overall betting on our sport.”
The other major professional sports leagues are not on the same page. New Jersey has been fighting in court against the sports leagues, including the NBA, to bring Las Vegas-style sports betting to its ailing casinos and horse racing tracks for four years. “Should it be viewed in the competitive team-oriented sense that it is now, or does it become a vehicle for betting, which may in effect change the atmosphere in the stadiums and in the arenas?”
“Some of our owners are also owners in other leagues, so it’s something that they also want to talk to the commissioners in the other leagues about,” Silver said. He wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in November that called for Congress to create a federal framework and allow states to authorize betting on pro sports.
“I think there needs some attention to be paid to what sport is going to represent to young people,” Bettman said in an interview with CNN. Jim Whelan and State Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo sent a letter to the NBA offering a .25 percent commission fee off bets. LoBiondo and Pallone are hoping Silver’s stance sparks interest in their bills, but both are also wary of the other leagues’ resistance.
While discussions are ongoing behind the scenes, Silver is the only active commissioner to come out publicly in support of legalization. I will say that certainly all of them are interested in having a better understanding of the issue, and I know have assigned people in their organizations to study intensively the issue as well.”
“As long you have the other major leagues saying that ‘this is evil and bad’ and ‘we don’t want it,’ that will be an excuse for many to just stay away from it,” LoBiondo said.
Silver also addressed the gambling scandal involving former NBA referee Tim Donaghy in 2007. The NHL did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He was convicted and served 15 months in federal prison. That case is headed to appeals court in the spring.
In addition to the conversations between the commissioners, there have been other private meetings between council for the leagues to discuss the pros and cons of legalization, multiple sources with direct knowledge told ESPN.
Sources with direct knowledge of the meetings came away believing the NHL is more open to legalization than Bettman’s comments indicate. “But for the FBI knocking on our door and notifying us about Donaghy’s betting, none of the systems that we then had in place had captured any betting by Tim Donaghy.”
“While I wouldn’t categorize [daily fantasy] as sports betting,” Silver said, “on the continuum of no betting at all and legalized betting, it’s certainly somewhere on the spectrum, but not yet sports betting.”
“It’s my personal view that there should be federal legislation on this issue, in part to avoid what is happening now,” Silver said. The NHL is currently considering placing a franchise in Las Vegas, and like all the leagues, is participating in daily fantasy sports.
In September, New Jersey State Sen. Major League Baseball, while transitioning to new commissioner Rob Manfred, declined comment. “My greatest concern is that there will be in essence a hodgepodge of regulations controlling sports betting that will vary from state to state, jurisdiction to jurisdiction and will make it increasingly difficult to monitor betting on our very own sport.”
The NBA has spoken with the English Premier League about how it handles the betting on its matches and studied financial models in jurisdictions where sports betting is legal, like China, New Zealand and the U.K.
Meanwhile, three states, New York, Indiana and South Carolina, have introduced bills to legalize sports betting this year. Congressmen, Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone of New Jersey, have introduced federal bills to amend the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the 22-year-old federal ban on state-sponsored sports betting. The NHL’s Gary Bettman has been the only commissioner to speak out since Silver’s op-ed.
While he may not have the full support of the other leagues, Silver says NBA owners approve of his approach. The NFL says its opposition to legalized sports betting has not changed