Gary Bettman on legalized sports betting: Do we want fans rooting for spread?

Gary Bettman on legalized sports betting: Do we want fans rooting for spread?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver made waves this week by writing an op-ed piece in the New York Times that advocated for the legalization of sports wagering. Because why shouldn’t pro leagues or the government get a taste of a $400-billion industry, right?

In an interview with Rachel Nichols of CNN, airing Friday night, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about this stance from his former employer’s current commissioner. His answer exists somewhere between “do we want fans just rooting for their bets?” and “won’t something think about the kids!?!?!??”

From the interview, which can be seen here:

Rachel Nichols - Now NBA commissioner Adam Silver did make a little bit of a splash this week, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times talking about legalizing sports gambling, he advocated for that pretty strongly, what do you think?

Gary Bettman – I think there needs some attention to be paid to what sport is going to represent to young people, should it be viewed in the competitive team oriented sense that it is now, or does it become a vehicle for betting, which may in effect change the atmosphere in the stadiums and the arenas.

Rachel Nichols – Do you think that it would change the nature of sports?

Gary Bettman – I think it could, do you want people at football and basketball games rooting for the spread or rooting for their favorite team?

Rachel Nichols – And there are some folks building an arena in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the world, and they’ve talked about wanting an NHL team there…

Gary Bettman - So I’ve heard

Rachel Nichols - …yes, so what do you think about that?

Gary Bettman – The good news for us is the NHL has never been stronger, never been more popular, and that I guess has led to a lot of interest being expressed from a number of places, an interest in getting an expansion team, and Las Vegas happens to be one of those places.

Now, the NHL is never going to have the same problems that the NBA and the NFL are going to have with legalized sports wagering because (a) not enough people bet on hockey because (b) there isn’t enough scoring, which means it’s not as tantalizing a wager as betting on a football game with a point spread.

But his words about “rooting for the spread” speak directly to deputy commissioner Bill Daly’s concerns about the NHL in Las Vegas:

“You don’t want guys in the stands with bet tickets in their hands and the only reason they’re watching the game is so they can cash in on a bet afterwards. That’s not an environment you want to foster or create as a professional sports league.”

All of this points to the NHL asking for the Las Vegas team to be taken off the sports books when it’s playing home games. Assuming, of course, there is one.