The National Basketball Association faces a massive infusion of cash should its push to legalize sports gambling come to fruition, a team source within the league tells Breitbart Sports.
“The NBA could easily make three or four times more than the television contracts off of the gambling profits,” estimates the source. The source tells Breitbart Sports the public endorsement of sports gaming by the commissioner plays as one part of a multi-pronged approach taken by the association towards recouping profits made off its product by bookies.
The observations come on the heels of a report by the Sports Betting Commission. Citing “positive and progressive” support for gambling by sports organizations, the UK site focused on the international gambling industry indicated increased efforts to lobby for legalized online sports betting in the United States in 2015. The report specifically pointed to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s support for sports gambling as a reason for the confidence of gambling enthusiasts in the U.S. The benefit to the NBA might involve licensing content to gambling sites and ultimately marketing apps in which fans around the world could bet on games and even shots within the contests.
“Betting on professional sports is currently illegal in most of the United States outside of Nevada,” Silver wrote in a November New York Times op-ed. “I believe we need a different approach.”
Silver’s article and previous comments as a professional sports commissioner embracing gambling struck many as groundbreaking. But his verbiage appears as part of an overall league vision, which behind closed doors has been part of the NBA’s agenda for years. Silver’s editorial piece may have hit newsstands fairly recently. But taking an inventory of the league and its most visible franchise shows that the push for a mutually-beneficial alliance with legalized gambling predated Silver’s acknowledgment of his support for the industry.
In the summer of 2013, when the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA’s most visible franchise, moved a preseason home-away-from-home from the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas down the road to the MGM Grand, the team source believed that the push for legalizing a marriage between gambling and professional basketball became more plausible.
“Las Vegas is the capital of the summer NBA,” the source tells Breitbart Sports. “It was only a matter of time before gambling would be addressed by the league.”
The Lakers’ 2013 move to the MGM Grand Arena, which typically hosts one Laker exhibition game per year, from the nearby Thomas and Mack Center, was hardly based on destination or ticket-revenue projection. While the MGM Grand Arena holds far fewer seats than the Thomas and Mack Center, the partnership boasts myriad ways for the Lakers to market their brand through the MGM’s empire, just as the league benefits from its Sin City summer league. The Lakers had earlier tried a similar partnership during the David Stern-era with the Mirage.
A year after the move, Silver issued the league’s stunning about-face on gambling.
“Talk about mixed messages, five years ago the league put all this money into telling us how bad gambling was,” says the NBA source. “But, when this does happen, the league owners are sitting on a trillion dollar industry.”
In 2007, NBA referee Tim Donaghy pled guilty to federal charges after he wagered on games and allegations arose of wild point-spread shifts in contests in which he officiated. Donaghy, though discredited, levied charges in 2008 that other referees extended a playoff series to seven games to help the league with television ratings. A few years removed from one of the biggest scandals in its history, the NBA now seeks to associate from what it so vigorously sought to disassociate.
Silver wrote in his November op-ed, “There is no solid data on the volume of illegal sports betting activity in the United States, but some estimate that nearly $400 billion is illegally wagered on sports each year.” With heavy interest in the NBA in Asia and Europe, where legalized sports gambling already exists, bets on the NBA abroad may dwarf what gamblers wager on the games in the league’s home country.
“They say it’s not about the money, but it’s about the money,” says the league source.
Just as yesterday’s barroom “numbers game” outlawed by the state became today’s Powerball, Mega Millions, and Lotto run by the states, the anti-gambling NBA has adopted an if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em approach. In 2015, if Adam Silver can be the league commissioner responsible for steering the ship in the direction of legalizing online gambling on professional basketball, he’ll be relevant for a long time. And to league owners, if he can collect the money without breaking any legs or busting any jaws, Silver’s legacy will be worth its weight in gold.
Sean Flynn is a basketball enthusiast living in rural Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @CoachSFlynn.