NBA commissioner Adam Silver has reversed the league’s position on gambling, acknowledging that legalized sports betting is “inevitable.”
Only two years ago, in November 2012, former NBA Commissioner David Stern had joined the Department of Justice, the NCAA, NFL, MLB, and NHL to sue New Jersey because the state was attempting to solicit legalized sports betting to come to its casinos and racetracks. When Stern testified in court, he said, “The one thing I’m certain of is New Jersey has no idea what it’s doing and doesn’t care because all it’s interested in is making a buck or two. They don’t care that it’s at our potential loss.” New Jersey lost in court on a ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, but is still trying to make sports betting legal there.
Now Stern has changed the league’s tune, asserting at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit on Thursday that states that are treading water financially are likely to endorse legalized sports betting. He said, “It’s inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada and we will ultimately participate in that.”
Sports betting totaled over $3.6 billion at Nevada sports books in 2013. The American Gaming Association has estimated that illegal betting totals up to $380 billion every year.
Silver also stated that betting would keep fans more attached to the sport, saying, “If you have a gentleman’s bet or a small wager on any kind of sports contest, it makes you that much more engaged in it. That’s where we’re going to see it pay dividends. If people are watching a game and clicking to bet on their smartphones, which is what people are doing in the United Kingdom right now, then it’s much more likely you’re going to stay tuned for a long time.”
Silver’s remarks come just seven years after NBA referee Tim Donaghy offered a guilty plea to charges related to wagering on games that he officiated.