Back in September, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver discussed how sports betting could benefit professional teams at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit. Silver mentioned how NBA betting could create further interest in his sport and more engagement with fans. He took his views a step further in an op-ed piece for The New York Times, which was published on Nov. 13, 2014.
Silver is a major proponent of sports betting who is also a leader of a professional league, but he and UFC Executive Vice President and COO Lawrence Epstein are two of the very few who have publicly stated their support. Epstein also recently spoke out in favor of sports betting, as he believes legalizing and regulating it can help the sport of MMA because it would ensure the fairness of competition.
In his op-ed piece, Silver discusses the fact that sports wagering is widespread and currently exists around the world, both legally and illegally. His concerns about illicit bookmaking operations are valid, quoting an estimate that nearly $400 billion is bet illegally in the United States alone every year. He also explains that legal sportsbooks in England allow bettors to place wagers on their TV remote control, their smart phones, or at stadiums where the games are played. All of those options could greatly benefit the NBA in the sense that fans could interact with the game more than ever before.
The obvious concern here is the ability to fix games could escalate because those with true inside information could reap financial rewards from what they know. However, Silver points out in closing that any new approach to sports betting in the U.S. must protect the integrity of the game.
The biggest misconception about legalizing sports betting is the assumed negativity leading to crime that would spread as a result. Opponents of sports betting legalization tend to forget regulation brings with it the possibility of additional tax revenue and forces the government to monitor it for fraud and illegal activity. Proponents like Silver know it’s more about bringing something already going on in the darkness into the light, where it can be used positively to help rather than hurt society as a whole.