NBA seeks 1 percent cut of all wagers should sports gambling be legalized

NBA commissioner Adam Silver proposed the regulation of legalized sports gambling four years ago. (AP)
NBA commissioner Adam Silver proposed the regulation of legalized sports gambling four years ago. (AP)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has long been open to legalized sports gambling, so long as its regulated properly, and it now appears the league has finalized its plan on how to do just that.

The NBA is seeking 1 percent of all wagers made on its games if sports gambling is federally legalized, an attorney for the league told a New York State Senate committee on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the matter come spring, the NBA will also reportedly push for its expansion to smartphones and other real-time alternatives to casinos.

“We have studied these issues at length,” NBA attorney Dan Spillane said in a statement to lawmakers, via Windhorst. “Our conclusion is that the time has come for a different approach that gives sports fans a safe and legal way to wager on sporting events while protecting the integrity of the underlying competitions.”

Spillane addressed the committee in New York as part of an effort to ensure the state is prepared with regulatory laws should the Supreme Court overturn a federal ban on sports gambling outside Nevada. The NBA, with Major League Baseball, recently backed a similar 1 percent “integrity fee” in Indiana.

As recently as five years ago, former NBA commissioner David Stern was an ardent supporter of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection of 1992 — the same legislation that New Jersey is arguing against in front of the Supreme Court — but Silver turned the league’s tables with a 2014 New York Times op-ed piece titled “Legalize and Regulate Sports Betting,” arguing for the eradication of PASPA.

Silver expanded on that stance significantly while speaking on a panel alongside commissioners for the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball at Manhattan’s Paley Center for Media this past summer:

“You get the direct data from those betting companies, and about 85 percent of the action is now so-called in-play. People don’t have the attention spans they used to. It’s not as if they want to bet the Knicks and then wait for three hours to see what happens. They want to bet throughout the game, so they’re betting on quarter scores, on particular players, on free throws and everything else, and independent of whatever revenue stream comes from licensing our intellectual property to those gaming companies, it results in enormous additional engagement in fans.

Now, imagine the financial windfall for the NBA if it takes 1 percent of every wager — from before games to potentially every possession within them — and you can begin to understand why the league would support regulating legalized sports gambling. You might also get why the American Gaming Association, which represents the nation’s casino industry, would oppose any such legislation.

“We are pleased that the NBA today joined with the gaming industry in support of vigorously regulated sports wagering,” AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman responded in a statement on what the organization called the “NBA Proposal to Skim Money from American Taxpayers.” “We can all agree that the 25-year ban on sports wagering has been a failure in every regard. Now, let’s get real about eliminating the illegal market, protecting consumers and determining the role of government — a role that most certainly does not include transferring money from bettors to multi-billion dollar sports leagues.”

To which NBA spokesman Mike Bass responded:

“Sports leagues provide the foundation for sports betting while bearing the risks it imposes, even when regulated. If sports betting is legalized federally or state by state, we will need to invest more in compliance and enforcement, and believe it is reasonable for operators to pay each league 1 percent of the total amount bet on its games to help compensate for the risk and expense created and the commercial value our product provides them. This is a similar approach to legally-regulated sports betting in other international jurisdictions.”

So, even if the Supreme Court rules in its favor on gambling, the NBA’s fight may have just begun.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!