NBA Needs To Lead Other U.S. Pro Sports Leagues Forward
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When Does Sports Betting Talk Turn To Action For NBA, Adam Silver?

Adam Silver sports betting all talk no action
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver really thinks sports betting should be legal and regulated.

He has told us several times in the past that he believes this. And he reiterated that this week during a stop on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

ESPN’s headline for the video classifies Silver stance on gambling as “bold.” But given Silver’s history on sports betting, when does “bold” turn into “old hat”?

Silver, nothing if not consistent

What Silver said this time is not materially different from what he has said in the past.

In a nutshell, he again said that there is a huge underground market for sports betting, and that the integrity of the game would be better served by bringing that activity into the light of the day.

You can watch his comments here:

But, he’s been beating this drum for awhile:

Silver, just priming the pump?

That final bullet gets to the heart of the matter: When do talk and public relations manifest themselves into advocacy, if you’re Silver and the NBA? Or will it ever?

To some extent, what Silver is doing is understandable: The U.S. isn’t going from zero to 60 on sports betting. Reiterating, over and over, that sports betting is happening despite the federal ban via PASPA is a worthwhile exercise.

The “pump priming” stage for legalization of U.S. sports betting seems like it should be just about over. It’s probably time to take action, if you’re Silver, and if he wants to see words turn into policy.

What can the NBA and Silver do?

Beyond the interviews, there are certainly tangible actions Silver could be taking that could advance the cause of legal sports betting:

Pull out of the New Jersey sports betting case

The professional sports leagues — the NBA included — are a part of the ongoing New Jersey sports betting case in which the state  is attempting to allow wagering within its borders. An “en banc” rehearing took place in February.

The NBA could send a message by vacating its standing as a plaintiff in that case. It likely wouldn’t materially change anything in the case — the other pro leagues and the NCAA will continue as plaintiffs.

Of course, that case might be resolved in a matter of weeks or months, anyway — a decision is expected this summer. There is a chance that the losing side appeals the decision to the Supreme Court — perhaps the perfect time for the NBA to wash its hands of the case.

Will that happen? Probably not. But it would send a message that the NBA wants to start doing things differently in regards to sports betting.

Start lobbying Congress

If the NBA takes its case to lawmakers in a material way — beyond just talking about it — that would likely speed things up in the U.S.

The NBA would have a willing and experienced partner to work with: The American Gaming Association, which has ramped up sports betting advocacy.

The AGA, which represents the casino industry in the U.S., issued a release yesterday pointing out Silver’s stance:

American Gaming Association (AGA) Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Sara Rayme released the following statement after the Nevada Gaming Control Board announced that a record-breaking $292 million was bet at Nevada sports books in April, an increase from $250 million in April 2015:

“Sports betting has never been more popular, yet most Americans are forced to the illegal market, where they bet billions of dollars a year through bookies and offshore websites. Instead of a failed federal ban, it’s time for a new approach that, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly noted, recognizes the benefits of a legal, regulated and transparent marketplace that protects the integrity of the sports we all love.”

Want change? Tell lawmakers directly that you want it to happen.

Get the other leagues on board

How much this is already going on is unknown. It’s difficult to believe Silver or his staff hasn’t had some sort of conversations with the commissioners/staff of the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NHL.

While the stance of the leagues has evolved on sports betting considerably over the years, they still aren’t to the point where they are ready to say it should be outright legal and regulated.

Silver, if he isn’t already, needs to be the point man in rallying support from the other leagues. And if that happens, the demise of PASPA and the ban on sports betting across the U.S. might hasten.

Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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