NBA Commissioner Says Chance of Corruption Is Lower with Legal Sports Betting

Basketball player in action
NBA Commissioner Silver says that he believes legal sports betting will decrease the risk of corruption.

30-second summary

  • NBA is trying to take advantage of sports betting in many ways
  • NBA Commissioner Silver believes legal sports betting lowers the risk of corruption
  • Marshall University AD believes otherwise, saying unpaid college players may be tempted to partake in match-fixing

NBA’s fight against sports betting

For many years, the major sports leagues were doing everything in their power to prevent sports betting from becoming legal. They opposed New Jersey’s court battle to put an end to the federal ban.

Finally, in May 2018 the major sports league met defeat when the Supreme Court ruled to end the federal ban. Many states have now made sports betting legal and many more are looking to do so in 2019.

As soon as the battle was officially lost, most of the major sports leagues began to explore ways in which they could get in on the action. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was the only large sporting organization in the United States that tried to distance itself from sports betting.

Pursuit of integrity fees

Initially, the NBA, MLB, and the PGA Tour were seeking integrity fees from sports betting. Such a fee would be a slice of every sports bet made on one of their games. The reasoning was that these revenues would be used to ensure that the integrity of the sports was being upheld.

Complex monitoring systems would be put in place to prevent corruption. While they have been lobbying in individual states and some lawmakers have included such fee in draft bills, no integrity fee has yet been included in a sports betting bill that passed.

Some states are still considering integrity fees, including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Massachusetts, and New York. Such a fee would be in the range of 0.2% to 1%.

Embracing sports betting

Another avenue the NBA has been pursuing is licensing its data to sports betting operators. While much data on the NBA games is public knowledge, there is live data that can be very valuable to sportsbooks. Therefore, the NBA is looking at ways in which they can sell this data as a package for a fee.

The NBA was the first of the major sports leagues to obtain an official gaming partner. The partner is MGM Resorts, which now has similar relationships with the MLB, NHL, and MLS.

The NBA also became the first league with an international sports betting partner. This is with the French National Lottery. The partner companies can access exclusive data and have the right to use the NBA logo in some forms of advertising.

The NBA will get help in monitoring suspicious betting activity and obtain advice on their overall integrity systems.

Stance of the NBA Commissioner

The commissioner of the NBAAdam Silver, was recently interviewed on the TV program “60 Minutes.” A significant portion of the conversation concerned sports betting.

Silver said that believes legal sports betting makes it less likely that players will take part in corruption, such as match-fixing. This is because there will be a database of all sports bets, showing up any patterns that may exist. He believes that gamblers who were previously corrupt may worry that they will now be caught.

Silver says about legal sports betting: “I think it decreases risk dramatically because we have access to the betting information. I think when you have an underground business operating in the shadows, you have no idea what people are betting on your own events.”

Opposition to this view

However, the athletic director for a Division 1 school believes otherwise. Mike Hamrick, the AD at Marshall University, believes that legal sports betting will lead to an increase in unpaid college athletes getting involved in corruption.

West Virginia already has legal sports betting, so this hits close to home for Hamrick. He believes that because there are so many markets now on which to place bets, it is likelier that a college athlete can be influenced. He says: “It’s legal. And most athletic directors I’ve spoken with feel the same way… And as more states legalize sports gambling, it’ll affect more and more athletic directors.”

Hamrick will be educating his school’s athletes on the pitfalls of taking part in such an illicit activity. Someone who has similar views as Hamrick is the president of minor league baseball, Pat O’Conner.

He believes that minor league players who do not get paid well may be easily convinced into taking part in match-fixing. Both sports have historic incidents involving match-fixing, which happened when sports betting was illegal. 

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