NBA has been preparing to embrace legalized sports betting for years


For several years the NBA has been shifting its stance on sports betting. Monday’s Supreme Court decision to lift a federal ban on sports betting comes at a time when the league is prepared to welcome the change — and capitalize on it.

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court opens the door for states to pass laws legalizing sports betting,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures. Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.”

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and Chief Operating Officer Tim Harris declined to comment on the ruling through a spokesperson. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told CNBC the ruling would double the value of American sports franchises in the top four leagues — the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL.


“Everybody’s gambled for a long time,” Cuban said. “This is not a new industry. It’s just a matter of whether you’ve done it as part of the underground economy … or whether now you’ll be able to do it above board and leverage all the new technology that’s available to do it. So the fact that we can take it above board means it can truly become global. There are 118 countries that already allow gambling so really it’s our chance to learn from them and catch up.”

The NBA has a complicated and sometimes unsavory history with gambling. All team employees undergo anti-gambling training, but the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, enacted last summer, includes a provision to include gambling proceeds as part of basketball-related income. Such a clause did not exist in the previous agreement between the league and the NBPA, which was effective from 2011 to 2017.

A low point for the league came in 2007 when the FBI investigated former referee Tim Donaghy for betting on games and attempting to control the point spread. Donaghy was investigated as part of a larger organized crime investigation. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Following the scandal, the league tried to distance itself from gambling, but that space has closed in recent years.

Casino sponsors are more and more common lately, and this year all 30 teams will be attending Las Vegas Summer League and staying in casino hotels.

About nine months after he became the NBA’s commissioner in 2014, Silver wrote an op-ed in the New York Times supporting the legalization of sports gambling with regulation. His argument centered on the normalization of sports gambling in American culture and the need to be able to regulate the industry, rather than allowing it to continue illegally and unregulated.


Its final sentence read: “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.”

The league has also expressed interest in the past in receiving a 1% fee off gambling revenue they say would be used to help preserve the integrity of the game.

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli