Friday September 5,2014 : U.S. SPORTS LEAGUE HYPOCRISY
How can you litigate against the expansion of sports betting, yet acknowledge that it's inevitable?
Making headlines in mainstream and sports-oriented media across the United States late Thursday was the startling opinion of Adam Silver, commissioner of the US National Basketball Association, who acknowledged that the expansion of sports betting beyond the restrictions of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is inevitable, and that his organisation will participate.
Our readers will recall that Silver's organisation was one of four national sports bodies that vigorously (and expensively) litigated against New Jersey's attempts to sidetrack the PASPA and accept sports wagers in the Garden State, which is not one of the four states authorised under the Act.
Millions of dollars were spent on legal costs by New Jersey, the sports leagues and the US Department of Justice as the case dragged through the courts and almost made it before the Supreme Court before New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pulled the plug on the issue by vetoing further attempts to overturn the PASPA.
It's all the more remarkable, then that Silver acknowledged the inevitability of wider sports betting when he addressed the annual Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in New York this week, suggesting that the need of individual states for tax revenues would ultimately ensure that the PASPA restrictions would at some future stage be eased or lifted.
When that happens, he said, the NBA would "participate" in the reformed market, adding that he personally had no moral problems with sports betting – a marked departure from the at times blurred and hypocritical line taken by the sports leagues in opposing gambling on sports generally.
Silver accepted that normal Joe Public betting on events generates interest and engages punters more closely in sporting competitions, lengthening dwelling times on television and other media – a key area in which by selling sports rights, the sports organisations can profit handsomely.
In related news, the issue of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's veto on a further attempt to legalise sports betting in the Garden State ( is gaining momentum, with state Senator "never say die" Ray Lesniak pushing for the state legislature to overturn the veto.
However, before he takes the veto dispute back to the legislature, Lesniak has agreed to participate in an exploratory meeting between the governor and mainly politically interested parties on September 10 to see if a compromise can be reached.
Lesniak has meanwhile set up a September 22 vote in the legislature in case the talks with Christie fail. If Lesniak can persuade two thirds of the politicians sitting in both the state Assembly and the Senate that the Christie veto is flawed and should be re-visited, a new phase in the state's pursuit of sports betting revenue will begin.
A number of independent observers have noted that the subject of the veto – Lesniak's latest sports betting bill – cleverly incorporates elements from the federal opposition's own arguments against the original bill seeking to circumvent PASPA, and therefore has strong possibilities if challenged again by the sports leagues.