SBD/Issue 64/Leagues & Governing Bodies

David Stern Calls Legalized Betting On NBA Games A "Possibility"

Stern Says Legalized Betting On NBA
Games "May Be A Huge Opportunity"
NBA Commissioner David Stern has “moved closer than any major commissioner in modern times to an acceptance of legalized betting on his games,” calling it a “possibility” that “may be a huge opportunity,” according to Ian Thomsen of SI.com. When asked if legalized sports betting is “in the best interests of his league,” Stern said, “It has been a matter of league policy to answer that question, 'No.' But I think that that league policy was formulated at a time when gambling was far less widespread -- even legally." Thomsen noted the NBA has “created a variety of constituencies” -- including fans who wear NBA clothing and play videogames -- who have increased the league’s popularity. Thomsen: “Why not make room under the big tent for the minority of fans who like to bet on NBA games?” Stern: “You're arguing there may be good and sufficient business reasons to do that, and I'm going to leave the slate clean for my successor. But it's fair enough that we have moved to a point where that leap is a possibility, although that's not our current position." He added, “Gambling, however it may have moved closer to the line (of becoming acceptable), is still viewed on the threat side. Although we understand fully why, buried within that threat there may be a huge opportunity as well." Thomsen wrote the admission is a “breakthrough,” as Stern long has “objected to legalized wagering on NBA games.” However, the league “has already begun to soften its stance.” The ’07 NBA All-Star Game was held in Las Vegas, and the league last season allowed the Palms casino, which is owned by NBA Kings Owner the Maloof family, to post odds on all NBA games except those involving the Kings” (SI.com, 12/11).

CURIOUS TIMING: In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote for Stern to “even broach the subject now is ridiculous,” and he “made a mistake, at the very least.” Lawrence: “He’s not clear of the Donaghy mess, just because he shook up his officiating hierarchy and hired a former U.S. prosecutor to look into the way the refs go about their business.” However, it is possible Stern made the comments “to send up a trial balloon and see what kind of reaction he’d get” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/13). SPORTINGNEWS.com’s Bethlehem Shoals wrote the fact Stern is even thinking of the idea of accepting legalized betting on NBA games is “pretty remarkable.” Shoals: “This might be the worst thing to talk about in the wake of Tim Donaghy’s recent media blitz, or in some crazy way the best possible form of damage control" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 12/11). Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Don Walker wrote Stern's "candor is remarkable," as there are not "many commissioners in professional sports who would be willing to talk about gambling" (JSONLINE.com, 12/11).

STERN ON OTHER TOPICS: The NBA’s CBA expires after the ’11-12 season, and Stern in the SI.com interview noted the NFL, NHL and MLB also face labor negotiations during the same general time frame. Stern: “The potential expiration of all four leagues at the same time should send shudders up the spine of lots of people involved with our industries. Everyone has a different set of relationships, and some require opt-outs and whatever. But that would be the apocalyptic scenario." He said all the leagues are “worried” about what multiple work stoppages would mean to the leagues' television partners. Stern: “We're all working -- in our own ways, unrelated to the others -- to see whether we can make a deal this time." Meanwhile, SI.com’s Thomsen noted Stern “did not come across as a commissioner looking forward to retirement.” Stern: “I just read that [MLB Commissioner Bud Selig] is going out. He’s 75 now; he’ll be going out at 78. I’m a kid. I’m 67” (SI.com, 12/11).

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