Commissioner Adam Silver Calls for NBA to Embrace Sports Betting as Revenue Source
Even though the National Basketball Association supported a recent lawsuit by the major U.S. sports leagues to stop New Jersey’s push for sports gambling, Commission Adam Silver says it is in the NBA’s best interest for his league needs to embrace the industry. In a recent interview with Howard Beck of the Bleacher Report, Silver said he wanted to work with government officials to arrange the best system possible for legal and regulated sports gambling.
The NBA commissioner says current gambling laws like the 1992 Profession and Amateur Sports Protection Act are not stopping Americans from gambling on NBA games (and other sporting events). He said those laws only restrict domestic opportunities, while gamblers continue to bet through their local bookies and at offshore online sportsbooks.
Sports Betting Is Inevitable
Silver went on to say in his interview with Howard Beck that legalized sports gambling is “inevitable“. Regulated gambling has been on the rise in the United States for decades. The number of states with land-based casino gambling has risen from 2 to 40 in the past 25 years. Meanwhile, state after state has legalized lottery gambling in the past few decades. The multi-state lottery associations, Powerball and Mega Millions, are perhaps the starkest examples of the growing prevalence of legal gambling in the US.
Under those circumstances, Adam Silver sees the trends leading to regulated sportsbooks in the near future. With that in mind, it is far better for the NBA to embrace sports wagering–with a mind to profiting off the activity. When it is time for the new sports gambling laws to be written, he wants the NBA sitting at the table discussing such a system. When casinos and racetracks begin taking wagers, he wants the NBA taking its cut of the action.
Steve Sweeney Offered Revenues
Others have had similar ideas. In a bid to stave off the lawsuit he same coming, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney back in August 2014 offered the NBA (and other leagues) a cut of its revenues. The idea never elicited a response from the NBA or its fellow sports associations.
Adam Silver called for government regulation in alliance with the sports industry’s top associations. Silver said, “Because the industry is not transparent, we can’t do as good a job, I believe, as we could if it were all highly regulated. Right now there’s a huge offshore online business in sports betting. If you go to Google…you could spend your night looking at the various sites that ask people to enter their credit cards.”
New Sheriff in Town
Silver, who took over as NBA commission in February 2014, cited the English Premier League as a sports organization which has blazed a trail on sports gambling. He said the league’s clubs are now sponsored heavily by sportsbooks, which place their logos on league jerseys or on signage around the league venues.
He added that he believes similar opportunities exist for the NBA and other U.S. sports associations. Silver would like to see the leagues embrace such opportunities sooner rather than later, because it represents a lost revenue stream.
David Stern’s Hardline Stance
The new commissioner’s stance is at variance with the attitude the NBA’s previous commissioner for the past 30 years, David Stern, professed. In 2012, David Stern said that New Jersey was “foolish” for trying to legalize sports gambling in their state.
New organizational leaders often find ways to signal that a new person is in charge, by setting policies diametrically opposed to their predecessor. When Roger Goodell took over for Paul Tagliabue as NFL commissioner in August 2006, he began establishing a reputation as a no-nonsense leader. Goodell was quicker to intervene in players’ legal issues, offering suspensions with greater frequency than Tagliabue ever had.
That policy eventually landed Goodell in trouble in 2014, when the American public heavily criticized his decision to suspend Ray Rice only 2 games for knocking his fiance unconscious on the elevator at the Revel Casino. Goodell had a long track record of suspensions, so his 8-game suspension for marijuana use made the Rice suspension appear to be a slap on the wrist in comparison.
Roger Goodell and Donald Sterling
Adam Silver’s stance on sports betting isn’t likely to be as controversial in a personal sense, though his stance could have far-reaching implications. If the sports leagues ever break ranks on the issue of sports betting, it could open the door for states to finally successfully challenge the PASPA law.
Of course, Adam Silver had a baptism of fire as NBA commissioner. Only a few short months into his tenure, Silver had to intervene in the Donald Sterling public relations fiasco. Eventually, Silver banned Donald Sterling from the NBA for life, in what was the new commissioner’s defining moment (so far) as the league’s new leader.
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