NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is the strongest proponent of legalizing sports gambling of the four major professional sports leagues, and this week he predicted that a federal repeal to the current ban will come in the next few years.
Appearing on a panel alongside the other “Big Four” commissioners, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, MLB boss Rob Manfred, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the executives were asked to weigh in on the future of gambling in sports.
Silver, as expected, gave the most resounding endorsement to legalizing sports gambling.
“My sense is the law will change in the next few years in the United States,” Silver explained, as reported by SportsBusiness Journal. Silver added that if the law changes and sports gambling becomes a right reserved to the states, he hopes jurisdictions that legalize sportsbooks would also allow in-play betting.
“People want to bet throughout the game. It results in enormous additional engagement with the fans,” Silver concluded.
The four league bosses were appearing at a discussion titled GameChangers: Creating the Future of Sports. The event was hosted by The Paley Center for Media in New York City.
Silver has been the leading voice of the Big Four commissioners when it comes to sports betting. In a 2014 New York Times op-ed titled Legalize and Regulate Sports Betting, Silver opined that there is “an obvious appetite among sports fans for a safe and legal way to wager on professional sporting events.”
The NBA executive said it’s his duty to protect the integrity of the game, and unregulated sports gambling makes that nearly impossible. “I believe that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored,” he concluded.
The issue is of course PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that has banned sports gambling since 1992 in all but Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana.
Goodell, perhaps the most important voice in the GameChangers discussion considering more money is bet on football than any other sport in America, stayed quiet on the gambling topic.
Manfred also didn’t provide much of an opinion, though he did recently tell the Baseball Writers’ Association that should PASPA be repealed, MLB would need to have an active role in forming new federal or state laws.
Bettman told the conference that he isn’t concerned with hockey games being fixed, and that gambling on the NHL is peanuts compared to the NFL and NBA.
Adam Silver’s opinion that PASPA’s oversight might change “in the next few years” might be expedited should the US Supreme Court rule in New Jersey’s favor. The high court agreed last month to hear the state’s challenge to the federal law.
In 2013, New Jersey passed legislation to authorize and regulate sports betting. But the NCAA, along with the Big Four, sued on grounds that the state was in violation of PASPA.
Federal courts have repeatedly ruled on the leagues’ side, but that didn’t stop the Supreme Court from agreeing to review the case. The challenge is set to be heard this fall or early next year.