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Volume 24 No. 215
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League Commissioners Have Differing Views On Whether To Embrace Gambling

There appears to be a stark divide among the major pro sports leagues regarding gambling after the commissioners of the NBA, NHL and MLB spoke on the issue at the Paley Center in Manhattan last night. Adam Silver said the NBA will embrace gambling if it is legalized, while the NHL’s Gary Bettman and MLB’s Rob Manfred took more of a “go slow” approach. NFL commish Roger Goodell did not offer comments on the issue. Silver said, “My sense is that the law will change in the next few years in the United States. It’s more a function of being realists. It’s a multi-hundred billion-dollar illegal industry in the United States. Ultimately, as the owners of the intellectual property, we’re going to embrace it.” Bettman and Manfred worried about the impact legalized gambling will have on the at-game experience, suggesting leagues will see unintended consequences. “I don't worry about fixing games. I don't worry about anything other than what does it do to the way young people consume sports,” Bettman said. “Secondly, what does it do to the environment in a stadium or an arena if everybody is sitting there just worrying about their bets? Does it turn us into something other than what we’ve been, more like a race track?” Manfred: “The growth area is on more discreet activities in the game. Is the next pitch going to be a ball or a strike? … It seems to me that there is a difference between somebody betting on whether the next pitch is going to be a ball or a strike -- which is hard for anybody to affect or control -- as opposed to the outcome of a game.” Silver responded by saying, “Research generally shows that fans are fairly sophisticated. They can both root for their team and virtually all the action. … They want to bet throughout the game. They're betting on quarter scores, on particular players, and free throws. It results in enormous additional engagement.”