Silver: 'Pointless' To Debate Whether DFS Is Skill Or Gambling
Legal Sports Report

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver On Daily Fantasy: ‘The More Transparency, The Better’

Adam Silver SXSW
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke at length about daily fantasy sports and sports betting at the cultural festival South By Southwest in Texas last week.

Top-level takeaways from Adam Silver

  • Silver and the NBA seem to still be bullish on fantasy sports; he certainly didn’t distance himself or the league at all from either FanDuel or DraftKings.
  • He dismissed the idea that DFS being called a game of skill or gambling should be important for how the industry is treated moving forward, saying that it should be regulated.
  • He indicated the league initially looked at the legality of DFS largely from a federal standpoint, when getting involved with the two big DFS companies.

The conversation took place in Texas — a market where the state attorney general has opined that DFS is illegal gambling. FanDuel, in which the NBA is invested, will leave the state in May, while DraftKings is fighting the attorney general in court.

What Adam Silver said on DFS

Near the end of an hourlong session where he talked on a wide variety of topics, Silver was asked about his position and thoughts about daily fantasy sports.

He spoke candidly on the subject — including its legality and its future.

Here is part of what he said:

We jumped into the world of daily fantasy, we’re partners with FanDuel, we have an equity interest in FanDuel, and roughly half our teams have partnerships with FanDuel and roughly half our teams have partnerships with DraftKings.

At the same time, obviously, we don’t want to get sideways with the law. It was our interpretation of federal law, going into those deals, that there was a carveout for fantasy including daily fantasy and daily fantasy, of course, for money. And so ultimately we got comfortable that it was permissible.

Now, of course, as this is evolving state by state, to the extent that state attorney generals, or state legislatures, or state courts decide that daily fantasy is impermissible in those states, obviously daily fantasy companies are observing those restrictions, and we won’t do business in those markets.

Having said that, where I believe it is going … is that it is going to become a regulated industry. We just saw Virginia now was the first state, where their governor, I think just last week signed into law, in essence regulations pertaining to daily fantasy; a taxation system, a registration system. By the way, we’re fully supportive of that. The more transparency, the better; there should be restrictions against employees playing, etc

It’s been interesting to watch the analysis in a lot of states, that’s as attorney generals have come in and said, the debate has been ‘is it a game of skill or is it a game of chance/gambling.’ To me, I believe it’s a game of skill, but I think it’s pointless to debate it. It’s daily fantasy. I think the decision should be for those state legislatures: do you want to legalize it?

My only issue though in some of those states — I understand from a statuory standpoint if you want to interpret language and say this is not allowed, I get it and then it’s a question for the state legislature. What I don’t get is where then the intepreter then goes on to moralize about the notion that this is gambling and therefore evil, when in those very same states they have casinos, racetracks and lotteries. To me, I think gambling, regulated gambling, is a part of Americana now. We have casinos in 44 states.

So. from from a personal standpoint, I don’t see it as an evil.

You can also watch his comments starting at about the 57:30 mark here.

What Adam Silver said on sports betting

He was also asked about his New York Times op-ed on legalizing sports betting back in 2014. You can read a transcription of his comments on that — with even more insight into daily fantasy — here.

He said that he and the NBA likely would not actively lobby for regulated sports betting in the U.S., but he was still optimistic about its chances.

So I think now that’s what you’re going to see – and while I can’t put a specific timeline on it, I think [sports betting] may happen sooner than anyone would have thought. But we’ll see. It depends what party is controlling Congress and who the President is.

Silver continues to be a voice of reason regarding both daily fantasy and sports betting in the U.S. among major professional North American sports leagues.

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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