If NBA commissioner Adam Silver gets his way, basketball fans won't have to fly to Las Vegas to gamble on his league's games anymore. Reversing a longstanding opposition to legalized sports betting among the big North American sports leagues, Silver called on Congress to overhaul a 22-year-old federal law and allow states beyond Nevada to authorize regulated gambling.
Silver's argument echoes those made in favor of drug legalization and, in an earlier era, a repeal of Prohibition: Sports gambling is happening everywhere anyway, so let's bring it "out of the underground" and do it the right way. "Times have changed since Paspa was enacted," he wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Friday, referring to the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
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.
Silver noted that legal sports gambling is widespread overseas, and voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly supported a change in the law in a 2011 referendum. With Atlantic City's traditional casinos going bankrupt seemingly by the week, Governor Chris Christie—a likely presidential candidate in 2016—signed legislation authorizing legalized sports betting over the objections of the NBA and other leagues earlier this year.