NBA talks sports betting again after NFL moves to Las Vegas
Legal Sports Report

NBA Executive On Legal Sports Betting: ‘There Is Definitely Forward Motion’

NBA sports betting
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On the heels of the NFL moving a franchise to Las Vegas, an NBA executive said that there is positive momentum for legal sports betting in the US.

The NBA on sports betting

That the NBA is a proponent of regulated sports betting is not news. Commissioner Adam Silver has been saying that for years.

The new comments come from Dan Spillane, an NBA senior vice president, in a larger piece on the topic of sports betting from the Wall Street Journal.

You can read the full story at the WSJ (paywall). But here is what Spillane said:

“There is definitely forward motion,” said Spillane, who has led the league’s efforts to study the issue. “Five years ago, no one saw this as something that could realistically happen.”

Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had something positive to say about sports betting this week. He said that the regulated environment for Nevada sports betting would be “beneficial.”

It’s still not clear how sports betting momentum will turn to action

Despite the changing attitudes toward sports betting, the United States is confronted with this reality: Single-game sports betting is only legal in Nevada.

Using the momentum Spillane talked about to change that reality is not quite as easy as snapping one’s fingers.

The NJ sports betting case

The easiest path would be for New Jersey to win its ongoing case to offer legal sports betting on the grounds that PASPA — the federal sports betting prohibition law — is unconstitutional.

(The pro sports leagues — including the NBA and the NFL — are the plaintiffs in that case. The NJ law would create an unregulated environment for sports betting, which is part of the reason why they oppose it.)

That case is being appealed to the US Supreme Court. A win for New Jersey would quickly change the landscape for US sports betting.

Congress and sports betting

Beyond that, Congress would have to change PASPA to allow for sports betting beyond Nevada.

New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone seized upon the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas to advance his agenda.

He has introduced legislation previously on legalizing sports betting for his home state — including a bill this year — but it has not yet gained much traction.

The leagues may need to go from bystanders to participants

The softening of the leagues’ stance on sports gambling is of course a welcome development.

But will the talk translate to action, at any point? So far, the leagues have only started saying the right things, when it comes to sports betting.

For the law to change — outside of the NJ sports betting case — it may take the leagues being an active participant in pushing for that change. That’s something not even the NBA has expressed willingness to do.

For now, though, everyone agreeing that regulated sports betting is better than the black market that persists around the US is a good thing.

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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