Published: May 30, 2021

Adam Silver on the future of sports betting and the NBA

With the grand opening of the William Hill Sportsbook at Capital One Arena on Wednesday, Monumental Sports and Entertainment owns the first sports arena in the United States to house a sports betting venue.

WMSE, which also owns the Washington Wizards, is now uniquely positioned to capitalize on the growing popularity and de-stigmatization of sports betting, an industry the NBA at-large has come to embrace of late. 

In an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards Insider Chris Miller, NBA commissioner Adam Silver applauded MSE chairman and CEO Ted Leonsis for the move while also explaining the importance of the NBA’s involvement in the world of sports betting.

“I applaud what Ted is doing here in Washington,” Silver said in the interview, airing Saturday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards Pregame Live. “At the same time, I think it’s very important that there be a regulatory framework both from the state and federal level, but then also from the league as well, to look out for problematic gambling, to make sure that we strike the right balance in the amount of betting promotion that happens around our games.”

The NBA is necessary in that regulatory framework, Silver said, to protect the integrity of the game. He saw the internet’s role in allowing for sports betting in places where it wasn’t yet legal and said that after he became commissioner in 2014, he thought the only way the league could track unseemly behavior in sports gambling was to participate.

“My view was we should be participating in it for two reasons: one is to protect the integrity of our game, that if we can’t follow the betting action, we don’t know if there’s abhorrent behavior, we therefore can’t investigate the incident. ... And it’s the same when you have legalized sports betting and you can see, through partnering with these betting companies, when there’s unusual behavior. 

“And then, number two, it is our intellectual property. We spend billions of dollars a year creating this product. It is my feeling that if people are going to be using the data around our games to bet, we should be participating in that.”

Silver said the NBA is learning as it goes but pointed to the transparency of models used by European soccer and other international markets as reasons those markets have had success. That transparency, he said, is what the NBA is going for. Silver called it the “gamification” of sports.

“I’m very sensitive around it, but I think that for the vast majority of people it’s something that they can enjoy doing, betting relatively small amounts on the games,” Silver said. “It leads to additional engagement around watching particular aspects of the game.”

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