- Adam Silver expects law change “in the next few years”
- Supreme Court to rule on New Jersey’s bid to change laws
The current commissioner of the National Basketball Association in the United States has told Sports Business Journal that he expects a change in sports betting laws to occur in the next few years, and confirmed his own support for such legislation.
Adam Silver’s support for sports betting places him at odds with the NBA and other leading sports leagues, who have fought in the courts to prevent the introduction of sports betting – particularly in the case of New Jersey, who are taking their legalization bid to the Supreme Court.
Commissioner calls for “safe and legal” sports betting
There is a clear demand for sports betting in the United States, though just four states allow legal fixed odds betting to take place.
A 2015 study estimated the value of the illegal sports gambling market at $149 billion. During the Super Bowl 50 event, a staggering $4.1 billion was collected in bets – yet just 3% of those bets ($100,000) were placed legally.
Illegal sports betting is often unlicensed and there is little or no regulation – bringing in a legal betting market will keep consumers safe. “Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards,” wrote Silver in a New York Times editorial.
Silver also argues that allowing sports betting will improve fans’ engagement with the game and attract new interest in America’s sporting leagues. However, opponents of legal sports betting argue that the opposite will occur.
The NCAA and NFL in particular have been vocal about disallowing betting on professional sports, claiming it will upset the integrity of the game and raise the risk of corruption by players, coaches and teams.
Change in the air for US national sports betting laws
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was brought into federal law in 1992, and it aimed to resolve issues of corruption in professional sports.
However, this retrospective law only prohibited new sports betting operations from being set up – states which currently managed their own betting markets were exempt from the change. As a result, fixed odds betting in the United States is only legal in four states: Delaware, Nevada, Oregon and Montana.
In the other 43 states, pari-mutuel bets are legal but all other forms of sports book wagers are prohibited.
New Jersey looks set to become the first state to tackle this law. The state has been fighting with professional sports leagues and federal lawmakers for over five years as it bids to improve its gambling market with fixed odds betting.
The home of Atlantic City has seen a decline in the casino industry in recent years, though profits would be significantly boosted should sports betting markets be opened in the state. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear New Jersey’s case, marking an important first step on the road to legalization.
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