Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has made a dramatic U-turn in his stance on sports betting, and says he now wants to see it federally legalized.

David Stern supports US legal sports betting

David Stern (left), seen here with NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, has a new attitude when it comes to legal nationwide US sports betting. (Image: Brad Barket/Getty)

And the man who, while opposing New Jersey’s fight for legalized sports betting in 2012, wrote that the NBA could not be compensated in damages for the “harm that sports gambling poses to the fundamental bonds of loyalty and devotion between fans and teams,” is now calling for the repeal of PASPA.

PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) is the 1992 law that defined the legal status of sports betting, as opposed to parimutuel horse and dog racing. Ultimately, it bans sports betting in all states, other than the four that had already legalized it pre-1992: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana.

Outdated Stance

At a round table discussion at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) last Thursday, Stern took the stage with Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association, to discuss the future of sports betting in the US. There, he said the anti-sports betting stance adopted by most of the major sports leagues is now “outdated.”

“Let’s not talk about the ‘evils’ of gambling when it comes to sports,” Stern said at G2E.

So what’s changed?

The former basketball commissioner now believes that properly regulated sports gambling would actually be “protective of sports,” rather than a threat to their integrity.

“I believe there’s going to be a lot more competition for the sports viewers,” Stern said. “(Betting) will be a driver of people to watch those games in which they have a financial interest, and as a result, they’ll be more likely to watch.

“There’s a lot out there that’s being bet illegally,” he added. “If we can fix this, it would be a big hit to organized crime.”

States’ Rights? Not So Much

Stern said he favors a federal framework of regulation, rather than state-by-state approach, which he dismissed as “too bureaucratic,” and added that states should be given the choice to bail out it they don’t wish to partake.

“If a sport says, ‘I don’t want to have my games bet on,’ then they should have the opportunity to opt out,” he added “If a state says, ‘I don’t want to have betting’ for any number of reasons, they don’t have to have betting. And I think that makes it a really good situation. It’s sort of a coalition of the wanted and the wanting.”

Stern believes that stakeholders need to get together to ensure that this happens, includes the major sports leagues.

“One or two leagues would be fine,” he said. “The others could sit back and watch the results. That’s not upsetting to me. The coming together is really more about getting law enforcement, technology companies and casino companies together with the sports leagues. That’s a tough task.”

David Stern’s stance echoes that of incumbent NBA president Adam Silver, who in 2014 wrote an op-ed for The New York Times calling for the adoption of a federal framework.