Adam Silver: Putting aside tanking—I’ll say the word, which to me, suggests players or coaches are intentionally losing games, and I think if I, as the commissioner, ever thought that was actually what was happening on the floor, of course we’d step in—but then there is legitimate rebuilding. You see it in lots of businesses, where an organization says, ‘We need to bring in new talent. It’s gonna take time to develop and train them.’ […] I’m not about to penalize a team for trading away a veteran to get draft picks because that’s how the league works. Finding and calibrating this is not an exact science, but we’ll even have to spend more time focused on it if sports betting becomes legal.
Basketball and baseball also saw increased betting interest. More than $1.4 billion was bet on basketball, both college and professional, and baseball attracted $1.1 billion in bets. Both are record amounts. The sportsbooks capped 2017 by winning $34.5 million in December. The books have come out ahead in 53 consecutive months, a streak that dates back to July 2013. As the Nevada industry continues to grow, the United States Supreme Court is reviewing a federal sports betting law and is preparing to release a decision in the coming months that could give other states an opportunity to legalize sports betting.
A key component of a proposal outlined by the National Basketball Association on Wednesday urging Congress to create a federal framework to allow states to authorize sports betting nationwide was met with skepticism by numerous interested parties, including several prominent sportsbooks. While appearing at a New York Senate committee hearing, NBA senior vice president Dan Spillane testified that if sports betting becomes legalized in a number of states across the country, leagues such as the NBA will need to invest more in compliance and enforcement actions for assuming the added risks associated with gambling. As such, Spillane said, the NBA believes that it is reasonable for gaming operators to pay the league 1% of the total handle legally wagered on its contests, drawing on models currently in place in Australia and France.
At the same hearing Wednesday, CEO Joe Asher of William Hill U.S. criticized the legislation in Indiana, describing the proposed integrity fee as a “cleverly” termed benefit for a select group of professional sports leagues. Traded on the London Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of around $3.5 billion, William Hill holds gaming licenses in the United Kingdom, U.S., Italy, Spain and the Bahamas and is one of the largest sports betting companies in the world. “Now, let’s be clear — that’s just a euphemism for a cut of the action,” Asher said in prepared testimony. “There will be plenty of financial benefits to the leagues. There is no need to divert tax revenue from the citizens of New York to a privileged few.”
In what could end up being a seminal moment for sports gambling in America, the NBA on Wednesday formally requested a set of laws that could be the basis for professional sports leagues pushing for national legalized wagering on games. Dan Spillane, an attorney for the NBA, testified in front of a New York State Senate committee and for the first time made it clear what the league’s price would be to become a partner in legalizing the multibillion-dollar industry. The NBA wants 1 percent of every bet made on its games in addition to other regulations, a request that could create massive revenue for the NBA and other sports leagues in the future.
Spillane also said the NBA wants more widespread access to gambling for its fans, pushing for bets to be made legal on smartphones and kiosks and not just inside casinos and racetracks. That would increase the amount of wagering and, in turn, create more revenue for the league under its desired plan. “We have studied these issues at length,” Spillane said in his statement to lawmakers. “Our conclusion is that the time has come for a different approach that gives sports fans a safe and legal way to wager on sporting events while protecting the integrity of the underlying competitions.”
The NBA had indicated that it wants to eventually lobby Congress to get a national bill passed, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules. The requests Spillane made Wednesday appear to be the basis of how that lobbying effort may go. No one knows how much is wagered illegally on sports each year, with estimates reaching into the hundreds of billions.