For decades, major professional sports leagues in the United States have performed a delicate dance when it comes to wagering on games. They know sports betting — legal in Nevada, with most of the action in Las Vegas — is a distinct part of why leagues like the NBA and NFL have achieved wild popularity, but they've also publicly maintained their distance (and even have actively worked against the expansion of gambling) for fear of an image or integrity problem.
But that sentiment seems to be shifting. The NHL has a team in Las Vegas now, and the NFL's Raiders soon could follow suit. On Wednesday, perhaps more notably, the NBA took a major step in the courtroom in supporting the expansion of legalized sports betting nationwide and laying out a blueprint for what that might look like.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst writes: "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."
Several states are already working on legislation that could come into play if the U.S. Supreme Court makes it legal to wager on sports in casinos and at racetracks.
But the testimony from the NBA's attorney makes it clear the league would potentially be interested in far more than that. Whether it's a sign of the times or the potential for revenue (always assume it's the latter) prompting the change of heart, it could have a massive impact on sports betting in the U.S.
That said, there figures to be some pushback from casinos regarding leagues getting richer. American Gaming Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman released this statement Wednesday:
"We are pleased that the National Basketball Association (NBA) today joined with the gaming industry in support of vigorously regulated sports wagering. We can all agree that the 25-year ban on sports wagering has been a failure in every regard. Now, let's get real about eliminating the illegal market, protecting consumers and determining the role of government — a role that most certainly does not include transferring money from bettors to multi-billion dollar sports leagues."