It was only a few short years ago when sports betting was a subject the media tried to distance themselves from. However, over the last 12 months we’ve seen a major reversal in that thought process as legal sports betting across the nation becomes closer to being a reality.
No longer do we have to wait for Al Michaels or Brent Musburger to slip in a betting reference during their telecasts as the only sports betting discussion. In many cases between ESPN and Fox Sports, the spreads on games are now the leading topic when experts discuss a game. People all across the nation are warming up to the idea of sports betting, and now even the NBA itself is getting on board.
Last week NBA commissioner Adam Silver went on record with an op-ed piece for the New York Times saying, “Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technology safeguards.”
Those comments may seem odd since the NBA is a plaintiff, along with the NFL, NHL and MLB, in a federal lawsuit against New Jersey to prevent legalized sports betting. But there was Silver penning carefully orchestrated words to endorse sports betting.
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Here in Las Vegas, we love the forward thinking comments from the commish, as should every state in the union because sports betting is the easiest way to bring in revenues to both federal and state levels without having to do too much. No major game plan is required. Just open the betting windows and watch the cash flow in just like all the lotteries 48 states currently have.
William Hill, U.S. CEO Joe Asher was extremely pleased with Silver’s comments.
“We agree with Commissioner Silver that a legal and regulated sports betting industry, like we have in Nevada and elsewhere in the world, is the best way to protect the integrity of sporting events,” said Asher in a prepared statement. “It is also the right way to protect consumers, who otherwise turn to the massive illegal market that exists in the United States.
“Sports betting is widespread throughout the U.S. today,” Asher continued. “Unfortunately, it is mostly illegal, unregulated and untaxed. That serves to benefit the criminals who serve that market today.
“We share Commissioner Silver’s view that the spread of legal sports betting in the U.S. is inevitable; the sooner that happens, the better. We look forward to working with the NBA and others on this issue.”
The first thought that should come to mind for everyone is why Silver made the statements and did he go out of his way to write the Times piece while in the middle of a lawsuit? Seems almost like sabotage.
This was a very calculated PR move by Silver, with of course all the NBA owners on board before he actually wrote everything in his own words so the message couldn’t be misconstrued.
The simple reason for the public change by the NBA is they know they can monetize their view point substantially and grow revenues for the league if they can somehow get a piece of the pie. It is their league, right? Every bet sheet would have their names on it, right? So they feel they should get something for it, and eventually they will, one way or another.
Their first plan of attack to get some of the betting money their way will be to negotiate with the major books to get a percentage of the win on wagers involving their sport. Who knows how much they’ll ask for, but whatever it is, the number will be way too high for the books to comply with.
In their hopes to get the federal and state governments to employ these strict compliance laws, they’ll try to get some help in the verbiage of the sports betting laws to include percentages their way. If that doesn’t work out, their final ploy will be to use the video feeds for their games as leverage. If no NBA games are shown in sports books, it takes away part of the overall book experience.
Right now, Nevada sports books pay a fee for live NBA games to be shown in a package determined by size of the property – not just size of the book. It’s a hefty chunk – but not as big as the NFL’s fee – that is paid through either local cable or DirecTV and every book pays for it because they have to for a competitive advantage. What book wants to be known as the one that doesn’t pay for the package? Might as well close up.
If the NBA uses their video feed as a way to monetize sports betting on their events, they’ll force all the major players to get involved. Those major players that have a huge advantage if legalized betting is allowed in other states figure to be William Hill, MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, CG Technology (Cantor Gaming), Station Casinos, Boyd Gaming, Wynn Las Vegas and the South Point. You can also expect English bookmakers like Ladbrokes to jump into the fray at some point.
All those Nevada companies are currently licensed with sports books complying with the strictest policies and will have no problem getting approved in other states’ new gaming departments. Their growth will be huge, but with that growth they’ll eventually be forced to share with the leagues they’re taking bets on, or at least that’s what I believe will happen. In the long run, everyone will make millions off the relationship.
The Silver piece was a beautiful read and it should serve well in all future litigation to stop legalized sports betting. Even if the NFL, NHL and MLB move forward with their attempts to stop the sports betting tidal wave, Silver’s quotes will forever be brought up as testimony from the league that used to be unified with them.
Look for the NHL to be next in line to support sports betting since George Maloof is expected to get the rights to bring a team to Las Vegas within the next four years.
But make no mistake, the NBA isn’t just saying legalized sports betting is inevitable because it’s allowed in several other countries or the betting interest keeps viewers tuned to their games. You can bet there’s a serious game plan involved with financial forecasts that have the owners drooling.
The money to be had could be worth billions and if the NBA gets a piece of that, every owner will have the value of their team dramatically increased. It also makes stocks of some these gaming companies look very attractive right now.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].