Michael Stilley takes a look at Commissioner Silver’s proposal to legalize sports gambling.
Soon after Adam Silver took over as NBA Commissioner earlier this year, after a 30 year reign by David Stern, he was faced with his major challenge: Clippers owner Donald Sterling was recorded chastising his girlfriend and telling her “not to bring black people to my games, including Magic Johnson.” Silver took swift and decisive action by giving Sterling a lifetime ban, which ultimately led to his ouster.
The new Commissioner was firm and well supported. His name was made.
Earlier this month, Commissioner Silver took another step at cementing his place in the sports world by writing an Op-Ed for the New York Times, entitled Legalize and Regulate Sports Betting. In it, Silver argued that “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.”
Silver argues that gambling on sports is rampant not only in the U.S. but elsewhere and usually done by “a thriving underground business” and “shady offshore websites.” Silver also notes that “[t]here is no solid data on the volume of illegal sports betting activity in the United States, but some estimate that nearly $400 billion is illegally wagered on sports each year.”
Aside from not being able to offer data to support this claim, what he also doesn’t address, are the negative issues associated with gambling.
As explained by Rehab-International. org:
“Gambling addiction can be just as devastating as chemical addictions when it comes to the consequences. In some cases, people can lose their cars, their homes, their families, and even their lives after losing everything.”
There are many such stories. For example, in an article on gambling addiction, compulsive gambler Michael Burke was quoted as saying “I stole my children’s college funds. I forged my wife’s name on a mortgage agreement for $200,000.” Burke also admits that he owes $1.6 million to his victims.
The National Council on Problem Gambling answers the question; “How widespread is problem gambling in the U.S.?,” with “2 million (1%) of U.S. adults are estimated to meet criteria for pathological gambling in a given year. Another 4-6 million (2-3%) would be considered problem gamblers; that is, they do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling, but meet one of more of the criteria and are experiencing problems due to their gambling behavior. Research also indicates that most adults who choose to gamble are able to do responsibly.”
In his Op-Ed, Commissioner Silver wrote: “In 1992, the leagues supported the passage by Congress of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, which generally prohibits states from authorizing sports betting.” A Gallup Poll posting from February, 2008 noted a decline in gambling:
“Gambling on sports in both formats (betting on the outcome of a specific game or by participating in an office pool around a sporting event) has declined over the past 15 years. In 1992, 12% of Americans said they had bet on a professional sports event in the past year, compared with just 7% today. The percentage who say they have participated in an office pool has dropped from 22% in 1992 to 14% today.”
Is there a correlation between PASPA, and the decline of sports betting?
If sports betting were legalized, would the “strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards”, suggested by the Commissioner, help safeguard against the negatives? Would the “thriving underground business” and “shady offshore websites” simply go away, or would they offer better odds than the suggested regulated sites?
Would the number of pathological gamblers increase from the estimated 2 million, and the number of problem gamblers from 4-6 million, or would the regulations somehow decrease those numbers?
Certainly there are many unknowns, especially considering that the numbers represented are estimates based on given information by various sources, a good portion of which are the gamblers themselves.
But there are some certainties. Adam Silver is an intelligent man. By his own statement that “some estimate that nearly $400 billion is illegally wagered on sports each year”, there should be absolutely no doubt, Adam Silver simply wants a piece of that action.
Certainly he is aware that this is a complex multi-faceted issue, but he only addresses the side that furthers his cause. There is simply no way to determine his complete knowledge, or intentions. But one thing is certain; his responsibility to the league is to build the NBA brand, which in this day is generally defined by income.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Locher