NBA Commish Silver Says Sports Betting Laws Will Soon Change; Hopeful for In-Game Betting

Speaking alongside his fellow commissioners from North America’s “big four” professional sports leagues, Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association (NBA) continued his league’s steady support for federal sports betting legalization.

Silver appeared at the Paley Center for Media in New York City on July 18, joining his counterparts Rob Manfred of Major League Baseball (MLB), Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League (NHL), and Roger Goodell of the National Football League (NFL).

The foursome formed a joint panel entitled “GameChangers: Creating the Future of Sports,” with each Commissioner taking questions on the evolution of their respective leagues.

Asked about his stance on the federal sports betting ban known as PAPSA – or the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 – Silver expressed confidence that repeal was an eventuality, and not mere possibility:

“My sense is the law will change in the next few years in the United States.

People want to bet throughout the game … It results in enormous additional engagement with the fans.”

Silver has been an outspoken critic of PAPSA since assuming the role of NBA Commissioner in February of 2014. Later than year, he famously penned an op-ed for the New York Times which was titled simply “Legalize and Regulate Sports Betting.”

In the piece, Silver outlined his opposition to PAPSA – and his support for legalized sports betting – thusly:

“Times have changed since PAPSA was enacted. Gambling has increasingly become a popular and accepted form of entertainment in the United States. Most states offer lotteries. Over half of them have legal casinos. Three have approved some form of Internet gambling, with others poised to follow.

There is an obvious appetite among sports fans for a safe and legal way to wager on professional sporting events. Mainstream media outlets regularly publish sports betting lines and point spreads.”

Silver has stepped up his public support for sports betting reform in recent months, as the state of New Jersey has seen its own challenge to PAPSA taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. That case originated in 2011, after New Jersey’s voters passed a statewide sports betting referendum, which was later signed into law by Governor Chris Christie.

In response, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) joined forces with the four major professional leagues to sue Christie and New Jersey. Six years later, following a series of rulings against the state, the Supreme Court will decide once and for all whether PAPSA holds the authority to ban statewide sports betting industries.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who assumed office in 2015 well after his league joined the lawsuit, has also joined the chorus with public statements in support of sports betting reform. Earlier this month, he made headlines by stating that MLB would want input on any federal regulations overseeing the sports betting industry.

During the Paley Center panel, Manfred echoed Silver’s comments regarding so-called “in-game” or “live” wagers – which concern single moments during a game and not the final score:

“There’s a difference between someone betting on whether the next ball is a strike or betting on the outcome of a game.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who last year approved the league’s latest expansion franchise being placed in Las Vegas, was also asked about sports betting, but his response was tepid compared to Silver and Manfred:

“We’re a small part of betting compared to football and basketball. I don’t worry about fixing games.”

As for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who approved the relocation of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas in May of this year, he elected to offer a strict no comment on the subject. Back in April, Goodell stated publicly that the NFL remains opposed to any PAPSA repeal efforts, despite adding a second professional sports franchise to the Sin City landscape.