Today was supposed to be a good day. Screw good, today was supposed to be an amazing, nailed a 6-team parlay kind of day.
I awoke to numerous messages about how NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times supporting the legalization of sports betting. Halle-freaking-lujah. Leave it to a Jewish lawyer to transform into the messiah of American sports gamblers.
Since taking over the NBA in February, Silver has relished the role of being the cool uncle in major professional sports. He swiftly dealt with the Donald Sterling mess, openly acknowledged that teams are encouraged to tank due to the NBA’s asinine draft system (I see you Sixers), and embraced paid daily fantasy. His peers, Roger Goodell, Gary Bettman, and Bud Selig are basically cold, wet blankets who seem to enjoy ruining everyone’s fun and getting booed at every public appearance.
But then I actually read Silver’s op-ed. It was nothing more than a turd sandwich.
Silver, the new, hot kid in the lunchroom once again stole the hearts of sports fans by calling for federal legislation legalizing sports betting. Silver specifically wrote, “Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”
Well said, Commissioner. So I guess you’ll be dropping out of that lawsuit to block New Jersey from implementing sports betting, right? You’ll leave Goodell on an island to defend his “integrity of the game” nonsense while he actively tries to put a team in London, where there are sports betting kiosks every few feet? You’ll force Bettman to explain the NHL’s planned expansion to Las Vegas, while claiming New Jersey gamblers will harm the game of hockey?
Right, about that. It turns out that Commissioner Silver is still opposed to New Jersey sports betting. Toward the end of his Op-Ed, he explained that “Without a comprehensive federal solution, state measures such as New Jersey’s recent initiative will be both unlawful and bad public policy.”
Cue the rain on the parade.
Silver is a smart man. He went to Duke undergrad and the University of Chicago for law school. I am sure he is well aware that Congress is incapable of passing any mutually agreeable legislation, let alone the repeal of PASPA and the implementation of a coherent, national law regulating a $400 billion industry. There is absolutely zero chance that the mouth breathing bible thumpers in DC would ever go along with gambling expansion. Particularly when the paradoxical anti-gaming expansion casino magnate Sheldon Adelson straight-up owns US Senator Lindsey Graham.
Basically, Silver is having his cake and double-fisting it too. He gets to enjoy the spotlight of being the progressive champion of change, while knowing full well that the federal government will never legalize sports betting.
He claims that he supports a federal system, rather than state-by-state legislation so that the NBA can ensure “mandatory monitoring and reporting of unusual betting-line movements; a licensing protocol to ensure betting operators are legitimate; minimum-age verification measures; geo-blocking technology to ensure betting is available only where it is legal; mechanisms to identify and exclude people with gambling problems; and education about responsible gaming.”
These are all commendable goals. But what Silver really wants is control and a cut of the action. Right now, the major pro sports leagues love paid daily fantasy because they directly profit from it.
However, the leagues would not see a dime from New Jersey sports betting and they would have zero control over the regulatory framework in that state. Obviously, the leagues know they benefit from expanded gambling. Gambling drives TV ratings. Plain and simple.
So it is quite confusing as to why Silver opposes individual states deciding if they want sports betting. The federal government was content to let individual states decide if they wanted casinos and Internet poker. Why should sports betting be different?
Nevada has run its own sports betting operation just fine without federal interference. Why do we want the federal government, and all of its incompetence and red tape, to control sports betting? I am obviously in favor of legalizing sports wagering, but I also understand if a Jesus-fearing state like Alabama does not want its citizens gambling on the Crimson Tide.
Silver’s Op-Ed is definitely a step in the right direction. I particularly enjoyed his subtle jab at the NFL by highlighting that “In England, for example, a sports bet can be placed on a smartphone, at a stadium kiosk or even using a television remote control.”
Ultimately, though, Silver’s Op-Ed is just a fart in the wind. If Silver wants to actually take a stand and effectuate change, then he would remove the NBA from the lawsuit blocking New Jersey sports betting and send a lawyer to argue in support of a law that the voters, the legislature, and the governor of the Garden State have all agreed on. If Silver truly believes in legal sports betting then he cannot continue to hide behind a desire for a federal law when he knows such legislation is impossible.
This is a state issue and one that Silver should champion. I refuse to believe he actually wants expanded sports betting until he stops trying to block the New Jersey law.