NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talked sports betting as his league started play for the 2018-2019 season.
Speaking to Stephen A. Smith on his ESPN Radio show, Silver addressed what the league is doing to be proactive with players and teams about sports betting, integrity fees and the illegal offshore market.
Silver hit on many of the league’s normal talking points when it comes to sports gambling, but generally Silver made it sound like any regulation is better than nothing.
“I think ultimately it’s a good thing to have it regulated,” Silver said early in his remarks. And later:
“I think it’s an area it’s got to be regulated, it’s got to be transparent, and I think ultimately I don’t want to hide from the fact that I think it will be good for business,” he said. “Putting aside whether we get some sort of fee for our data that the gaming services use, it leads to additional engagement.”
Integrity fees or royalties?
The subject of integrity fees — a percentage of handle from legal sports betting wagering going directly to sports leagues via new laws — has been a hot-button topic in sports betting since it first appeared in legislation at the start of the year.
Interestingly, Silver stuck with the “integrity fee” moniker for that money that the leagues have been trying to downplay:
I think when there’s been discussion about an integrity fee that we’ve proposed to state legislature — and we haven’t gotten a great response to that — and some people say ‘why are you calling it an integrity fee?’
And my view is once we have all that additional information, we’re going to have significant additional costs, because we need to monitor that information, we need to monitor line movements we need to monitor aberrational bets on games, things that we have learned from international soccer, that operates in a legal jurisdiction.
Just a day earlier, NBA executive Dan Spillane was singing a different tune, saying the league didn’t think any payments legislated by states were tied to integrity.
“I don’t call it that,” Spillane said.”I don’t like to get hung up on that name. But we try to be real clear about it’s a royalty.”
Silver dropped some interesting nuggets about what the league is doing as the season began on educating players and team staff:
“There’s significant additional things that we’re going to do,” Silver said. “We just sent out a mandatory anti-gambling tape to all our players and team employees, and I am sure you will see when you’re in locker rooms, there are new signs up this year, warning players so they’re not accidentally tipping people.
They might not understand why somebody’s asking ‘How’s such-and-such player feeling tonight?’ “
The illegal sports betting market
Silver also emphasized how the US and his league need to combat the offshore market, which is well-established with American bettors:
“If you go onto any search engine right now and put in ‘bet NBA,’ ‘bet NFL,’ you could be on there for a week just looking at the number of sites out there.”
Indeed, on the first page of results for the ‘bet NBA’ Google search, you’d find a number of pages that take you to offshore sportsbooks or sites that promote them. Thankfully, players can also legally bet on NBA games in the USA.