In an opinion piece published by The New York Times, Silver wrote:
“Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.“These requirements would include: 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.”
All major sports leagues, including the NBA, supported a measure passed by Congress in 1992 called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (Paspa), which made sports gambling legal in the four aforementioned states. In 2011, New Jersey residents approved a referendum proposal to allow state-sponsored gambling on professional sports. But that measure was blocked in federal court, with the leagues allied against it.
Silver, who succeeded David Stern as NBA commissioner in February, noted in the opinion piece that “times have changed since Paspa was enacted.” He cited the vast national increase in casinos and the fact that billions of dollars are wagered each year at “illicit bookmaking operations and shady offshore websites.”
Silver also mentioned New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s attempt in September to unilaterally authorize sports betting in his state. The commissioner wrote that he felt “New Jersey’s recent initiative will be both unlawful and bad public policy” without a federal law that essentially overturns Paspa and establishes a regulatory framework.
The NFL has been staging regular season games in London, and both it and the NBA are widely thought to be interested in establishing franchises in that city. That may be part of the reason that Silver mentioned in his piece 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.”
Silver may have his eye on removing a possible impediment to expanding his league overseas. However, it is more likely that he is simply being clear-eyed about the fact that millions of people are already wagering on pro sports, and will continue to do so, no matter what laws Congress passes or federal courts strike down.