Why The NBA Wants Sports Gambling Legalized Across The U.S.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday made his latest call for legalized sports gambling, writing in a New York Times editorial that it is time to bring sports betting “out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated.”
Silver has called for legal sports gambling before, and his latest push comes a week before a federal judge could rule on the state of New Jersey’s efforts to legalize gambling there.
The NBA and other leagues have opposed New Jersey’s efforts, calling them illegal under the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The NBA was, along with other sports leagues, supportive of PASPA when it outlawed sports gambling in all but four states — Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware — in 1992. But despite the federal law, Silver noted that there remains a “thriving underground business that operates free from regulation or oversight” and sends gamblers to “illicit bookmaking operations and shady offshore websites.”
Instead of actions like New Jersey’s that attempt to work around federal law, Silver wants the federal law to change.
“Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards,” the commissioner wrote. “Without a comprehensive federal solution, state measures such as New Jersey’s recent initiative will be both unlawful and bad public policy.”
The NBA this week signed a multiyear agreement to invest in FanDuel, a one-day fantasy gaming site. Fantasy sports have an exemption from federal gambling laws because they are considered “games of skill” rather than “games of luck,” but while it is technically different from the legal sports gambling Silver is calling for, it is still an unprecedented relationship for an American sports league that moves the NBA closer to certain types of gambling.
It seems unlikely that reforming PASPA will be on Congress’s radar any time soon, though New Jersey’s efforts and Silver’s support could work to build momentum for reforms. But the relationship with FanDuel and Silver’s outspoken support for legalized gambling could conceivably lead to other leagues changing their views as well. Sports leagues have a long and sordid history with gambling, from Major League Baseball’s Black Sox and Pete Rose scandals to point shaving in the NCAA to allegations of game fixing in the NBA playoffs. Gambling has long been considered the cardinal sin for anyone involved with a sports league and an activity leagues have kept at arm’s length, if not farther.
The amount of money in professional sports now, though, has reduced the incentive for players to help fix games or shave points, and as Silver wrote, technological advances could make it easier for leagues and regulatory bodies to monitor big swings in gambling activity that would indicate shady practices. And with so much money involved — estimates say there is as much as $400 billion wagered illegally on sports each year — leagues like the NBA could start seeing the industry as a potential revenue source (much like the NBA now sees single-game fantasy).
The NBA, meanwhile, has its own incentives for legalizing gambling: not only could it help build popularity and attention around single games, a softened approach on gambling — and confidence that it can protect the integrity of its games — could help pave the way for a team to eventually end up in Las Vegas, a long-rumored potential relocation option.

Written by Nick Endress

Nick Endress

Nick the Quick Endress is an avid fan of basketball and hip hop, and a contributing writer with WJS since 2013. Nick has interviewed rappers, ballers, rapper ballers, and baller rappers on the site and continues to preach that the NBA should have a team in Europe. Maybe because Nick currently lives outside London where to them Football is actually played with your feet, can you believe this fatuousness?