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Adam Silver: Legalized sports betting ‘inevitable'; NBA ‘will ultimately participate’

Sep 4, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT

Adam Silver Adam Silver

NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes that legalized sports betting beyond Las Vegas is coming, and when it does, he has no reservations about the league participating.

Professional sports leagues in the states have traditionally been opposed to the legalization of gambling on their events, because in addition to it being publicly unsavory, it could potentially open up a whole host of problems.

Silver hasn’t exactly said he’s in favor of it, but as he continues to show an exceptional degree of pragmatism in his early months as commissioner, he said that this is something he sees coming, and will embrace it the moment that betting on the sport he governs becomes an acceptable legal option.

From Mason Levinson and Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg:

While the NBA did not support New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie’s plan to implement sports gambling, the league does expect to face and profit from the broadening of legal sports gaming in the U.S., Silver said at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in New York.

“It’s inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada and we will ultimately participate in that,” said Silver, 52. …

“If you have a gentleman’s bet or a small wager on any kind of sports contest, it makes you that much more engaged in it,” Silver said. “That’s where we’re going to see it pay dividends. If people are watching a game and clicking to bet on their smartphones, which is what people are doing in the United Kingdom right now, then it’s much more likely you’re going to stay tuned for a long time.”

The benefits to league growth that Silver mentioned are indeed very real; just ask the NFL about that.

Professional football in the states is essentially designed for gamblers. In addition to the weekly point spreads, fantasy football is more popular than ever, and gives millions of fans a stake in multiple games that they would otherwise have little to no interest in caring about at all.

If legalized sports betting becomes more widely available, then Silver is right to get behind it this far in advance. The oddsmakers in Vegas are the first to police the industry, in that the moment big money starts rolling in on one particular game, they immediately know something is up. Legalization keeps everything honest in this regard, and while some will see Silver’s remarks as a negative, in reality, he is simply seeing the future.

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