NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a bit of a splash last week with an op-ed in the NY Times that, for the first time that I can recall, actually took a reasonable position with regard to sports gambling.
Since I've been paying attention, the only time a sports commissioner every spoke on the topic was to rail against it and its evil influence. So I was taken aback when Silver sounded downright reasonable:
"But I believe that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated."
Wow - look at that crazy liberal commissioner! Such wild language!
But stepping aside the corporate-speak, the NBA finally appears willing to lend its support to states which want to legalize gambling. That's really big news, and for people who might want to place a bet someday, pretty nice.
Basketball also makes perhaps the most sense for the sport which would come out in support of gambling.
1 - It's a sport that attracts a fair amount of gambling and it pretty easy to bet on (compared to say, hockey or soccer, which don't have enough scoring)
2 - It's also a sport that's pretty hard for gamblers to directly influence, and I say that because basketball more than any other sport is concentrated in the hands of its superstars. The superstars dominate play, and they make a ton of money (helped by smaller roster sizes than football). If you want to get the Cavaliers to throw a game, great, just get LeBron on board -- you know how much that would take?
So the NBA would get on board, or at least not necessarily stand in the way, under the right conditions and regulations. That caveat does give the league an out if they ever want to reverse course - they can always oppose a specific gambling plan from a state if it's not 'appropriate' enough.
But the public has shown an increasing desire to gamble, and the NBA sees the potential to get more fans (or gamblers) pumped up for their games. The fact that there are now DAILY fantasy games - which is nothing more than gambling and something I don't remember even hearing about before this year - is proof that there's a growing market. In fact, the NBA just entered an exclusive partnership with Fanduel, a daily-fantasy provider, including taking an equity position in the company, which is another resounding sign the market potential is real. It also means DraftKings, the other primary daily game site, will be fighting tooth and nail over the NFL exclusive agreement. Either way, the leagues are going to make good money off these gambling sites, and this is even before true live wagering. Given the opportunity to cash in, it's asking a lot of leagues to continue to take a holier-than-thou stance against gaming.
Of course, almost immediately after the NBA came out in favor of gaming regulation - the NHL commissioner came out against it (despite their own exclusive agreement with DraftKings).
But that attitude from the NHL makes sense...they've never really shown an interest in being relevant anyway.