There are a lot of no-nos when it comes to pro sports. Drug use. Cheating. Rushing into the crowd to beat up a fan. But there is no bigger no-no than gambling. Some of the greatest scandals in American sports history stem from the combination of the two, and it’s always seemed as though there would never be a time when professional sports leagues would align themselves with the gaming industry. Over the years the red line has become a grey one, as online gambling intermixed with pro sports recently, but now it seems as though that line could be truly crossed for the first time.
On Wednesday, an attorney for the NBA went before a New York State Senate committee to formally request laws that could be the basis for pro leagues to get involved in legalized betting on their games.
According to ESPN, Dan Spillane explained what the league would want in return if it agreed to become a partner in the effort to legalize sports gambling nationwide. The biggest ask was for one percent of every bet made on its games, which could become a huge revenue generator the league and create a precedent for the other leagues to consider as well. In fact, a bill in the Indiana House of Representatives also includes a one percent “integrity fee” that would be given to the NBA and Major League Baseball if the laws change and sports gambling becomes legal there.
Spillane also said the NBA wanted to be able to provide gambling opportunities to its fans directly, whether it be via smartphone or in-arena kiosks. That way they could control the flow of betting and not just let casinos or racetracks control it. It could also help to increase the number of wagers thanks to league marketing efforts.
“We have studied these issues at length,” Spillane said. “Our conclusion is that the time has come for a different approach that gives sports fans a safe and legal way to wager on sporting events while protecting the integrity of the underlying competitions.”
Why this is important is because the U.S. Supreme Court is potentially considering a New Jersey case that could clear states to legalize sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The NBA is hoping to be at the forefront of the discussion if the case is chosen and approved.
Right now, Nevada is the only place where sports betting is allowed under federal law. In 2016 alone, bettors spent $4.5 billion there on sports wagers. That number is expected to rise to over $5 billion when the count for 2017 is completed.
Of course, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and NCAA have all spent millions fighting against lax sports gambling laws over the years. But with the changing times, easier access, and potential revenue to be made, it seems like its only a matter of time before it happens. Expect all of those entities to be ready and willing to get their cut.