“The NBA owners know it’s a lot more than the TV contract that brought the values up,” an NBA team source tells Breitbart Sports, “It’s the sports betting.”
The source’s comment follows a Forbes report recapping fiscal year 2014. According to the report, the NBA underwent a value surge unmatched by any other professional sport. The Milwaukee Bucks, peculiarly purchased in part by Marc Lasry in April of 2014 for an estimated six times more than their annual revenue, sit at the bottom of the Forbes 30-team list.
Lasry, a hedge fund guy whom the president had pegged for the ambassadorship to France, saw a daughter work for Rahm Emanuel and a son for Valerie Jarrett. But Lasry never went to work for their biggest boss. The Democrat donor’s recent profile in New York magazine attributes the deep-sixing of his nomination to his ties to mafia-connected underground gamblers and lavish card games “to the tune of $100 million in laundered gambling earnings, according to the FBI.” Instead, he became an NBA owner in April.
Near the top of Forbes’s rankings are former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s Los Angeles Clippers. Before purchasing the Donald Sterling-defamed Clippers, he ran the computer software empire during the peak of Microsoft’s development of touch-screen interfaces.
Conveniently, the league source describes a marriage between Ballmer’s former business and Lasry’s alleged dirty hobby as the key to to an endless revenue stream that NBA owners anxiously seek to tap into.
“In addition to all of the regular bets we already have, you’ll be able to sit at an NBA game or on your couch and bet on jump shots by pressing a button on the iPad or your cellphone or any of the gadgets,” explained the league source. “You’ll do this as much as you want throughout the game.”
Forbes attributes the NBA’s cash windfall to the league’s lucrative TV contract signed with Time Warner and Disney. Since LeBron James’s rookie year, network broadcasters of NBA games (TNT, TBS, ESPN, ABC) witnessed a 26 percent ratings spike, refuting the post-Larry Bird/Magic Johnson-era NBA nemeses who insistently bark that “nobody watches the NBA anymore!”
“The average NBA team is now worth $1.1 billion, 74% more than last year. It is the biggest one-year gain since Forbes began valuing teams in the four major U.S. sports leagues in 1998,” wrote Kurt Badenhausen.
Breitbart’s league source suggests that Forbes’s reliance on television ratings or the NBA’s contracts to calculate franchise values is myopic.
NBA TV shares counter a national decline in monthly household TV watching. Yet, fans increasingly watch sports through handheld devices.
As a growing pocket of Americans already use the internet or cell phone Apps to view live sports, the NBA shrewdly wants to license and legalize Apps and websites where fans can watch and wager simultaneously.
“About a year and a half ago, the league office had a secret meeting to discuss gambling with the owners. And then they had another one not too long ago,” explains Breitbart Sports’s source.
If gambling on NBA games were to be licensed and legalized then this limitless cash flow would primarily go to the league and its owners instead of illegal bookmakers and Las Vegas.
The owners’s behind-closed-doors support for legal gambling on NBA games preceded the November op-ed piece by Commissioner Adam Sliver lobbying for “legalization” and “regulation” of sports betting. Silver’s singleness of purpose as NBA commissioner is to be the owner’s mouthpiece who collects the gambling money.
Earlier this month, during a CNBC exclusive, former NBA commissioner David Stern supported his protégé’s pro-gambling platform while using “fantasy sports” as his language of choice.
“Once ‘daily fantasy’ became an acceptable exception to the law against gambling, I think that’s gambling, so now I think the best approach would be, as Adam Silver has advocated, is for there to be federal regulation,” Stern told CNBC in January.
David Stern presided over the NBA during its most shamed exhibition of game fixing in league history, when referee Tim Donaghy sullied the league’s integrity by betting on NBA games he officiated.
Consequently, Stern’s word choice paradoxically aligns but distances from Silver and league owners who eagerly await a taste of a trillion-dollar industry, the profits from which currently go to Vegas, offshore casinos, and the armies of barroom and basement bookies across the United States.
But the league source explains that Stern’s invocation of “fantasy sports,” as innocent as it sounds now, is hardly going to be a friendly league you sign up for in October with pals but forget by Thanksgiving. The source described fantasy betting as something “you’ll do as much as you want throughout the game.”
In 2014, when Ballmer purchased the Clippers for a whopping $2 billion, and Lasry and a hedge-fund partner bought the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million, everyone believed they overpaid.
It all makes sense now. Perhaps Balmer and Lasry were privy to the minutes of the NBA owners’s meetings on gambling two summers ago. Scuttlebutt on gambling soon becomes reality.
“Trust me. Gambling is right around the corner. The owners know it’s where the real money is,” said Breitbart’s league source.
The money-making ventures of the two newest NBA owners may soon combine to make all NBA owners richer. The future wealth of the NBA brand lies not in cable TV, but in how quickly Silver can convince legislators and fans that Joe-Six-Pack is better off using his smartphone to bet on a Klay Thompson catch-and-shoot 3 than spending hours playing Candy Crush.
This is how billionaires become trillionaires.
Sean Flynn is a basketball enthusiast living in rural Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @CoachSFlynn.