Can legal US sports betting, across the board, ever be a thing? A surprising proponent has emerged in the form of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Commissioner Silver penned an op-ed for The New York Times recently, stating that he believes it’s time to allow sports betting to take place legally throughout the United States. That stance is in opposition to that of most major sports organizations in the USA, including the previously held position by the NBA and its former commissioner, David Stern.
“Betting on professional sports is currently illegal in most of the United States outside of Nevada,” Silver said at the start of his opinion piece. “I believe we need a different approach.”
Currently Illegal in Most States
Silver went on to outline the current state of sports betting in the USA.
In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a piece of legislation that prohibited states from regulating sports betting, while grandfathering in four states that already had some form of the betting available. Nevada is the only state with full sports betting, while Delaware, Montana and Oregon also have the right to offer more limited forms of sports-based gambling.
As Silver states, the NBA, along with other sports leagues and organizations in the US, has previously stood in opposition to legalizing sports betting for decades. But that hasn’t stopped people from gambling on the games, regardless of the lack of a legal, regulated option.
“But despite legal restrictions, sports betting is widespread,” Silver wrote. “It is a thriving underground business that operates free from regulation or oversight. Because there are few legal options available, those who wish to bet resort to illicit bookmaking operations and shady offshore websites.”
According to Silver, some estimates put the volume of illegal sports betting in the United States at as much as $400 billion per year. That dwarfs the amount of legal sports betting that takes place in Las Vegas casinos and other locations in Nevada.
Trends Point Towards Regulation
In the piece, Silver writes about the “domestic and global trends” towards regulation of sports betting. He points out that most states now offer at least some form of legal gambling, and that online gambling has already been regulated in three states. As a result, he says, it’s time for Congress to enact new laws to replace PASPA.
“Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards,” he wrote.
Silver has previously made comments suggesting he would be interested in seeing regulated sports betting in the United States, though this is the first time he has laid out his position in full. Other sports leagues declined to comment on Silver’s stance.
Cuban Backs Silver’s Stance
However, at least one NBA owner has already sided with the commissioner. Outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told CBSsports.com that “Adam has it exactly right.”
“In the past for PR reasons, we have put up token resistance to them,” Cuban said. “I agree with Adam that now is the time to take sports betting out of the shadows and deal with it like the huge business it is.”
Despite Silver’s comments, however, New Jersey shouldn’t expect the NBA to pull out of a lawsuit that is aiming to stop the state from allowing sports betting to go on at its casinos and racetracks.
“Without a comprehensive federal solution, state measures such as New Jersey’s recent initiative will be both unlawful and bad public policy,” Silver wrote.