Pro sports leagues 'planning for new gambling reality'

Wed, Feb 4, 2015
by CapperTek

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has engaged other professional leagues in conversations about the potential legalization of sports betting, David Purdum reports for ESPN.

Silver, who in November wrote an op-ed in the New York Times advocating the legalization of sports betting, told Purdum, "I have talked to the commissioners in the other leagues about it, and I leave it to them to make any public statements they want to make on it. I will say that certainly all of them ... have assigned people in their organizations to study the issue intensively."

While the other leagues remain tight-lipped about how their gambling philosophies have evolved, Purdum writes, “Regardless of public positioning, all the leagues are actively planning for a new gambling reality.”

In 2012, the NFL convened a forum with the others leagues, IOC and NCAA to discuss the issue, and more recently contingency plans have been formed in case the legalization of sports betting proliferates.

It appears that proliferation is going to happen – eventually.  

At the federal level, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said recently, “We need a debate in Congress. We need to have a talk with the American people, and we need to probably have hearings in Congress on the whole issue (sports gambling) so we can build consensus.”

Also, as New Jersey battles the leagues in the courts, there have been sports-betting bills introduced in three other states (New York, Indiana and South Carolina), and Minnesota state representative Phyllis Kahn told Purdum said she'll be introducing a proposal this year.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told CNN in November after Silver's op-ed was published, "I think there needs to be some attention paid to what sports is going to represent to young people. ... Does it become a vehicle for betting, which may in effect change the atmosphere in the arenas?"

Sources told Purdum that Bettman is embracing the concept of legalized sports betting to a far greater extent than his comments suggest.

While the leagues’ public stance is that sports betting threatens the integrity of their games, not a lot of people believe it.  The real reason they’re dragging their feet?  Perhaps they’re trying to figure out how to get a slice of the estimated $139 billion bet on sports each year.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in an email to Purdum, “We have always known betting, fantasy leagues and daily (fantasy) sports have driven interest and viewership. We did everything possible to encourage it while publicly condemning gambling. I'm glad Adam is putting the hypocrisy behind us and putting it all up front."

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