NBA, Gaming Group Push to End Illegal Sports Gambling
With a new partnership on the horizon, the American Gaming Association and National Basketball Association are looking to thwart illegal sports gambling. The key, they say, is a federal framework for regulated legal betting.
For more than two decades, the four major North American sports leagues have strongly opposed legalizing sports betting at both the federal and state levels. But, in a major shift last week, the National Basketball Association broke away from that stance and may look to partner up with the American Gaming Association (AGA) to put an end to illegal gambling.
In an op-ed published last week in The New York Times, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the time is right to begin allowing consumers to place wagers on professional sports games—an act that is currently legal only in Nevada.
“Despite legal restrictions, sports betting is widespread,” he wrote. “It is a thriving underground business that operates free from regulation or oversight. Because there are few legal options available, those who wish to bet resort to illicit bookmaking operations and shady offshore websites.”
Legal sports betting offers consumers a safer and securer way to place wagers, AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement. “In some cases, sports books in Nevada have even notified the FBI of unusual betting activity on sporting events that have led to convictions on match fixing.”
While illegal sports betting is known to exist, there is no solid data on how widespread it is in the U.S. Some estimates go as high as $400 billion per year, Silver wrote in the Times. That’s where AGA plans to step in and help the NBA and eventually other sports leagues.
“In the coming months, the AGA will be working to identify the size and scope of illegal gambling in the United States and what can be done to address the issue at a federal and state level,” Freeman said. “The gaming industry is committed to thwarting illegal gambling wherever it occurs, and we look forward to partnering with the NBA and others who share this goal.”
In October, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that partially repealed the state’s sports betting ban, legalizing sports betting at state-licensed casinos and racetracks. The NCAA, NFL, and other sports leagues challenged the law, and a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order that effectively put the law on hold. Arguments in the case are expected to be presented to U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp on Thursday.
The initial ban on sports betting dates back to the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a federal law that prohibits states from legalizing sports betting. Sports leagues were a driving force in the measure’s passage, arguing that legalized betting would raise the risk of point-shaving and other corruption in sports.
Silver argued that times have changed since PASPA was enacted.
“There is an obvious appetite among sports fans for a safe and legal way to wager on professional sporting events,” he wrote. “In light of these domestic and global trends, the laws on sports betting should be changed. Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”