NBA chief Silver wants sports betting to emerge from the 'underground' in US

NBA chief Silver wants sports betting to emerge from the 'underground' in US

Friday, November 14, 2014

Adam Silver, commissioner of the North American National Basketball Association (NBA), has reiterated his desire for lawmakers in the country to introduce a more widespread legalised sports betting market.

Despite various efforts to regulate sports betting on a wider scale, such wagering activities are only legal in the state of Nevada.

New Jersey almost launched a legalised service of its own last month, but the efforts were halted by a court decision that blocked the state from offering such services. 

Despite the ongoing difficulties and uncertainties surrounding such activities, Silver stated in an opinion piece in US newspaper the New York Times that the US must adopt an alternative approach to sports betting in order to capitalise on the monetary benefits it offers.

“For more than two decades, the NBA has opposed the expansion of legal sports betting, as have the other major professional sports leagues in the United States,” Silver said in the article.  

“In 1992, the leagues supported the passage by Congress of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or Paspa, which generally prohibits states from authorising sports betting. But despite legal restrictions, sports betting is widespread.

“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.”

Silver’s latest comments come after he said in September that legalised sports betting in the US is “inevitable” due to struggling state budgets and a wider acceptance of gambling by US citizens. His support for legalisation also comes despite the NBA having been part of a group of professional sports leagues to have successfully blocked an attempt by New Jersey to launch a legal sports betting service.

New Jersey's Monmouth Park Racetrack was last month set to be the first facility to offer legal sports betting in the state after Governor Chris Christie had earlier signed off on a plan to allow the practice at racetracks and casinos as long as wagers could not be placed on events in the state.

However, Judge Michael Shipp agreed with the complainants – the NBA and the major leagues of baseball (MLB), ice hockey (NHL), American football (NFL) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association – that allowing limited betting could cause their games to be “irreparably harmed”. 

Despite the NBA’s apparent opposition to the New Jersey plans, Silver continues to back sports betting on a wider scale and has called for the US to follow the examples set by other countries in which sports betting is legal.

“Outside of the US, sports betting and other forms of gambling are popular, widely legal and subject to regulation,” Silver said. “In England, for example, a sports bet can be placed on a smartphone, at a stadium kiosk or even using a television remote control.

“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 authorise betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.

“Let me be clear; any new approach must ensure the integrity of the game. One of my most important responsibilities as commissioner of the NBA 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. But I believe that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated.”

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