NBA’s Thoughts On Making Sports Betting Legal

Welcome to our page that tells you exactly what Adam Silver and the NBA think about legal sports betting in the USA. In the run-up to the potential dismantling of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA, 1992), attention is turning not only to the legal sports betting industry domestically and abroad, but also to what the major American sports leagues think of the prospect. Every league has a history of gambling-related scandals, after all, and those events have always played a large role in the sports industry’s general disdain for sports betting.

Unfortunately, the National Basketball Association was the victim of a PR nightmare when, in 2007, veteran referee Tim Donaghy was investigated, tried, and found guilty of various charges related to a point-fixing scheme wherein he actively bet on games in which he officiated. He also had a network of bookies with whom he would regularly discuss non-public pregame affairs in order to help his associates manipulate the spreads in their favor. These revelations dropped fan trust in the NBA to new lows, and the league has worked extremely hard in the past decade to recover from Donaghy’s actions. The NBA has very good reason to shun any association with gambling.

Does The NBA Support Legal Sports Betting?

Amazingly, yes. Wholeheartedly, in fact. This wasn’t always the case, but ever since Adam Silver – an inexplicably rational human being – took over as commissioner of the NBA in 2014, he has been actively promoting the notion that legal sports betting is universally beneficial. Just after assuming command of the NBA ship, Silver wrote an op-ed for The New York Times wherein he outlined the league’s new vision for sports gambling.

Eloquent and succinct, his message was simply this: fans want “a safe and legal way to wager on professional sporting events,” and they spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year sidestepping the demonstrably ineffective and unenforceable law to do it. Silver understands that the NBA is a product and that product success is predicated on giving customers what they want.

What Kinds Of Legal Sports Betting Regulations Does The NBA Want?

In the same public letter Silver used to broach the subject of legal sports betting in the first place, he also explained the extent to which he believes the industry needs to be regulated and safeguarded. “Any new approach must ensure the integrity of the game,” said Silver, suggesting mandatory monitoring and reporting of betting-line peculiarities, a licensing standard to establish bookmaker legitimacy, age-verification technologies, and geo-fencing systems to limit access to sportsbooks and betting to only those states and municipalities where sports betting is legal. Like most pro-gambling people of influence, of course, Silver also supports a vehicle by which to educate fans about “responsible gaming” and to “identify and exclude people with gambling problems.” That last bit is unfortunate, as prohibitions don’t work and only drive people underground (which is what this is all about to begin with), but the rest seems logical and user-friendly enough.

How Would The NBA Benefit From Legal Sports Betting?

Again, Silver answers this question in an uncommonly honest way: “It’s good for business. I don’t want to hide from that.” Silver further explains that he is not talking about “business” in the sense of being “actively involved in any of the betting,” but that it undeniably “creates more engagement.” In other words, fans who have a few bucks riding on a game are going to be more enthusiastic and interested in that game, particularly when their team is getting walloped and they’d otherwise simply turn off the TV or change the channel. In-game betting – typically comprised of prop bets and futures – has the well-known effect of keeping such fans’ eyeballs glued to the screen. The added entertainment is good for the fans, the extra fans are good for the advertisers, and the advertisers are good for the NBA. Somewhere in there, the TV stations benefit, too. Everyone wins.

Generally speaking, this is a similar stance to the one Silver took when asked by NBA lawyers whether or not to sue YouTube for hosting unofficially posted game and highlight clips. Silver opted not to take legal action, deferring instead to the reality that the next generation of fans is growing up on the video-sharing platform, not traditional cable networks. Maybe that’s why the NBA owns the coveted 18-29 demographic.

Setting The Silver Standard

Adam Silver obviously understands our evolving world, and he seems to realize how important it is to shake off the taboos of underground tradition so it can find a happy medium with aboveboard technology. With his outspoken and thoughtful support for legal sports betting under the umbrella of state regulation and oversight, he has done more than any figure in the popular media to posterize PASPA at the rim. He’s done his research. He understands that legal betting poses no more risk to the integrity of the game than illegal betting, and he’s ready for his product to offer the fans exactly what they’re asking for.

When it comes to sports betting, Silver is the gold standard, and other leagues would be wise to look at his stance as the model of pragmatism going forward.