Thursday night former National Basketball Association commissioner, David Stern minced no words in stating that it is time to legalize sports betting in the United States – just as has been suggested by his successor, Adam Silver.
“I’m with Commissioner Silver,” Stern told a forum in Manhattan. “There should be federal legislation that says, ‘Let’s go all the way’ and have betting on sports. It’s OK. It’s going to be properly regulated.”
Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver called on Congress in late 2014 to create a framework for states to work within to regulate legal betting on professional sports. Stern’s position is that a solution by the federal government is preferable to state by state control as the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL are all national entities. An AP report quotes Stern as saying, “If it’s subject to 50 individual states, you have every state representative who thinks he has a perfect idea — that’s problematic.”
It is estimated by some, including Silver, that illegal sports betting in the U.S. could reach as much as $400 billion a year. Others place the number much lower but still in the range of $100 billion, with the Superbowl alone accounting for nearly $4 billion in illegal bets, some 38 times more than are placed legally.
Stern was not always an advocate of legalizing sports betting. He was among a group of powerful men who came together to petition a Senate subcommittee in 1991 to stop the spread of the practice. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was another making an argument against what they saw as a “growing evil”. The men’s efforts paid off, so to speak, when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed into law the following year. More than two decades later Stern seems to see the way to remove undesirable elements from the practice is to legalize and regulate it. History shows prohibitions on “sin” in the U.S., whether they be alcohol, marijuana, or gambling provide a rich and fertile ground for organized crime to flourish.
Stern is quoted as saying, “I think [legalizing sports at the federal level] gives a way for states to make more money, for leagues to be compensated for their intellectual property, and for the federal government to take [away] illegally bet money and put it through the federal coffers.”
Legal or not, money continues to flow through unknowable hands with no oversight or regulation, and perhaps more importantly to some, no taxation. In January the American Gaming Association urged further scrutiny of illegal sports betting in response to new guidance on sports books from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
The current legal sports betting industry is also frustrated by their inability to get in on the surge in daily fantasy sports and the Nevada Gaming Control Board began a legal analysis of the pastime in July, with results yet to be released.
Early in September Commissioner Silver said that legal sports betting in the U.S. is “inevitable”.