NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says it's time for a new approach to betting on sports.
In an op-ed article for the New York Times published online on Thursday, Silver said fans should have a safe and legal way to gamble on professional games, suggesting a federal framework that allows states to legalize sports betting. He said new regulations would help prevent underage betting while educating those with a gambling problem about how to bet responsibly.
"Gambling has increasingly become a popular and accepted form of entertainment in the United States," Silver wrote. "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."
Silver spoke with WFAN's Mike Francesa on Friday afternoon and said the purpose of his op-ed was to start a dialogue.
"(Legalized sports betting) is a huge, huge industry in the United States … It's part of our culture. There are casinos in virtually every state and lotteries," Silver said. "We know it will be a long time before Congress changes the law. This is just the beginning of the conversation."
Sports leagues have long opposed gambling on games, claiming it creates incentives for game-fixing. It is currently only legal in Nevada; New Jersey is moving toward legalization — against the opposition of all four major pro sports leagues.
Silver said new laws would have to protect the integrity of the sports.
"I oppose any course of action that would compromise these objectives," he wrote. "But I believe that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated."
"What we can't do right now is monitor the bets made on our games," Silver told Francesa. "If we had a regulatory framework, flags would go up.
"It's already happening, we are better off doing it in the sunlight ... being transparent about it."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
Silver told Francesa he's not sure what the commissioners of the other major sports leagues thought of his op-ed, but said his owners know the score.
"The owners are on board with beginning a discussion, laying out a process. Most of our owners understand. Long before they were owners, they were sports fans," Silver said.
Earlier this year at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit, Silver said legalized sports gambling seemed like an "inevitable" bet in cash-strapped states -- and the NBA would have to embrace it.
"If you have a gentleman's bet or a small wager on any kind of sports contest, it makes you that much more engaged in it," Silver said in September, according to Bloomberg.com. "That's where we're going to see it pay dividends. If people are watching a game and clicking to bet on their smartphones, which is what people are doing in the United Kingdom right now, then it's much more likely you're going to stay tuned for a long time."
In a related subject, Francesa also asked Silver about the possibility of advertising on uniforms.
"I think it is inevitable. It will come one day. What the right model is for doing it, I'm not sure. It's something we're continuing to look at," Silver said.
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