NBA Commissioner Proposes Working with Christie to Legalize Sports Betting

Despite the fact that the NBA is currently fighting New Jersey in court on the state’s plan to offer sports betting, league commissioner Adam Silver (l.) said he would join with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to work to left a federal ban and regulate sports betting. Silver has broken from the other professional leagues by calling for regulated sports betting.

National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver is still calling for legalizing sports betting in the U.S. and said he’s even willing to join with New Jersey—which is fighting in court to allow sports betting in the state—if it moved to create a national plan.

Speaking on ESPN/s “Outside the Lines,” Silver said he’d rather work with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie than fight him.

“Governor Christie, and I’m happy to join him, should turn his attention to Washington, DC, to Congress, and say, ‘Here are all the reasons it should be regulated, but let’s come up with a framework that makes sense on a national basis presumably that would allow states to opt in,’ ” Silver said.

Christie, however, in a different interview called Silver’s comments a “bait and switch” tactic as the NBA continues to fight the state on sports betting.

The NBA has joined with other professional leagues and the NCAA to oppose New Jersey’s plan to essentially decriminalize sports betting in the state and allow it to proceed as a self-regulated industry at the state’s casinos and racetracks. The move comes after the state lost repeated challenges to overturn a federal ban on sports betting.

 “I think it’s kind of crazy for the commissioner of the NBA to say, on one hand, ‘Join me, governor, and let’s have legalized sports gaming everywhere. But not in New Jersey right now,’” Christie told NJTV.

Silver, however, said he’d like to see the state work to change the federal legislation to legalize sports betting and institute a uniform federal structure.

“Whether it’s ESPN with ‘Bracketology,’ whether it’s all the betting lines in every national newspaper, on every web service, my point was there’s massive, massive sports betting going on in this country,” Silver said. “Estimates are that it’s up to $400 billion a year. And my view is, if it’s going to go on, let’s make it transparent, let’s bring it into the sunlight, so to speak, and let’s regulate it, the same way we do a lot of other industries,” he said.

Federal law prohibits sports betting, but exempts some state’s which had forms of sports betting before the law was passed. Nevada, however, is the only state with a true sports book.

Delaware, however, has introduced a sports lottery where players can bet on several NFL games on the same ticket, based on a lottery plan active in 1992. The state—which was grandfathered under the federal law—lost a federal court case to offer more of a true sports book before establishing the more limited betting system.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell also appeared on the show and applauded Silver for speaking out.

“Having somebody like Adam Silver speak out is powerful, and I think it’s going to take folks like him … maybe that’s what it takes to move it,” said Markell. “It could be brought into the mainstream economy, instead of money changing hands the way it does now.”

In a related matter, a Jan. 14 deadline for the New Jersey Attorney General’s office to file its brief in the ongoing sports betting legal battle with the NCAA and pro sports leagues has been set by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.