NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Wants to Take Sports Betting “Out of the Underground”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wrote a guest column for the New York Times on Thursday in which he supported state-regulated sports betting. It was the first-year commissioner’s most definitive statement yet of his revolutionary thinking on sports gambling.
NBA Changes Official Stance
For decades under the leadership of David Stern, the National Basketball has been against sportsbooks. Adam Silver has stakes out a more complicated position. While he has steadfastly supported the sports betting lawsuit filed by the pro sports leagues against New Jersey, he has three times in the past three months advocated for states rights when it comes to legalized gambling on sporting events.
In his New York Times piece, Mr. Silver pointed to the vote in New Jersey which legalized sports gambling as a sign that the American public now embraces legalized bookmakers. He also cited examples of foreign sports leagues, such as the English Premier League, which embrace sports betting.
“Sports Betting Should Be Changed”
Silver added, “In light of these domestic and global trends, the laws on sports betting should be changed. Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”
Despite signing onto the lawsuit which supports the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the league supports gambling in other ways. The day before his op-ed piece, Silver’s league signed a four-year deal with FanDuel, a daily fantasy sports league. On Tuesday, the National Hockey League signed a deal with DraftKings, the chief rival to FanDuel.
Silver Calls for Congressional Action
Silver’s stance is equivocal, though. He calls for a comprehensive federal solution to the issue, as opposed to a piecemail policy which changes from state-to-state. He believes a 50-state federal law would provide the consistency and clarity to give Americans confidence that league games were fair.
“Without a comprehensive federal solution, state measures such as New Jersey’s recent initiative will be both unlawful and bad public policy,” wrote the new NBA commissioner. “Let me be clear: Any new approach must ensure the integrity of the game. One of my most important responsibilities as commissioner of the N.B.A. is to protect the integrity of professional basketball and preserve public confidence in the league and our sport. I oppose any course of action that would compromise these objectives.”
This is not a new position by Adam Silver. In 2009, when he was still Deputy Commissioner of the NBA, Silver said he viewed sports gambling as inevitable and said it should be legalized, to make it safer for the gamblers and the leagues. This was in opposition to his boss at the time, David Stern, who had been an opponent of legalized sportsbooks for decades. Stern once called New Jersey “foolish” for trying to legalize sports betting in their state.
In a bold statement for a second-in-command at the time, Adam Silver said in 2009, “We have a global business where many countries like the U.K. and China have legalized sports betting. We can’t live with our heads in the sand and pound our fists that we don’t want betting on our games. We realize there is enormous interest in betting on our games.”
Show Me the Money
In the end, sports gambling’s role vis a vis the U.S. major sports associations comes down to money. The NFL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA have supported the PASPA law for 22 years, because they thought it was in their economic best interests to do so. Adam Silver now believes his league should embrace sports betting, because it makes good economic sense.
Adam Silver believes he can read the American mood. He looks at multi-state lotteries, casinos in more than 40 states, and widespread online gambling and sees the trend leading towards more gambling. With that in mind, the NBA and its fellow leagues are going to face legalized sportsbooks, whether they like it or not. Under those circumstances, Adam Silver believes it makes sense to embrace the issue and extract maximum profits from the situation.
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