NBA Commissioner Adam Silver continues to shake things up -- first, with his widely hailed decision to ban former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life -- and now with a call to legalize gambling on pro-basketball games.
In a New York Times op-ed, Silver argues that betting on games should be allowed because it's going to happen whether the NBA likes it or not.
"It is a thriving underground business that operates free from regulation or oversight," writes Silver, who took over the NBA's top leadership role in February. "Because there are few legal options available, those who wish to bet resort to illicit bookmaking operations and shady offshore websites. There is no solid data on the volume of illegal sports betting activity in the United States, but some estimate that nearly $400 billion is illegally wagered on sports each year."
Silver takes the position that Congress should enact federal laws to reform and regulate gambling. According to Silver, these regulations would ideally include "mandatory monitoring and reporting of unusual betting-line movements; a licensing protocol to ensure betting operators are legitimate; minimum-age verification measures; geo-blocking technology to ensure betting is available only where it is legal; mechanisms to identify and exclude people with gambling problems; and education about responsible gaming."
The NBA Commissioner also references the recent pro-gambling push by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is trying to lift a state sports betting prohibition previously supported by the pro-basketball league. The possible 2016 hopeful recently passed a law that authorizes betting at casinos and racetracks but it has been held up by the federal courts because it violates the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which presents strict guidelines for states trying to legalize gambling.
"Without a comprehensive federal solution, state measures such as New Jersey’s recent initiative will be both unlawful and bad public policy," Silver writes.
Silver's position flies in the face of years of opposition from the big league sports to gambling. The influential sports site Deadspin describes the stance as "groundbreaking" but also pointed out that Silver has failed to actually put forward any specific steps the NBA could or should take to make betting on games legal.