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Pro Sports Leagues Begin To Accept Future Of Sports Betting

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear New Jersey’s appeal that would potentially allow the state to provide sports betting within its borders.

In NYC on Tuesday night, Roger Goodell (NFL commissioner), Adam Silver (NBA commissioner), Rob Manfred (MLB commissioner), and Gary Bettman (NHL commissioner) gathered together for a panel titled “GameChangers: Creating the Future of Sports” at the Paley Center for Media. How New Jersey’s case is decided could have implications on not just New Jersey, but the rest of the United States, as well.

When asked about sports gambling issue, Adam Silver said “my sense is the law will change in the next few years in the United States.” Silver also added that “people want to bet throughout the game … It results in enormous additional engagement with the fans.”

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Professional sports leagues in the United States have been opposed to legal sports betting since Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 1992. PASPA is a general federal prohibition against sports betting, aside from activities within the state of Nevada, which has been grandfathered in.

Adam Silver made his support for a federal approach to legalized sports betting well-known in his 2014 New York Times op-ed. In his editorial opinion, Silver said “times have changed since PASPA was enacted. Gambling has increasingly become a popular and accepted form of entertainment in the United States. Most states offer lotteries. Over half of them have legal casinos. Three have approved some form of Internet gambling, with others poised to follow.”

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has also shown his increasing support for the legalization of sports betting. Manfred told reporters “[i]f there’s going to be a change in the regulatory structure with respects to sports gambling, we needed to be in a position to meaningfully engage and shape, try to shape what the new regulatory scheme looks like.” Manfred also said, “[t]here’s a difference between someone betting on whether the next ball is a strike or betting on the outcome of a game.”

Even though in the past, the NHL has been pretty quiet on the sports betting issue, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has stated that he is not worried with the Las Vegas Golden Knights slated to begin games this year. He said “[w]e’re a small part of betting compared to football and basketball. I don’t worry about fixing games.”

Lastly, the NFL has been publicly against the legalization of sports wagering for quite some time. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell chose not to update the NFL stance at Tuesday night’s panel. However, a clearer stance will be required from the NFL with the Las Vegas Raiders arriving in a few seasons.

Unfortunately, everyone is still going to have to wait quite some time as oral arguments in the New Jersey betting case are expected to be heard by the United States Supreme Court between late Fall 2017 and early 2018. Those in support of legalization will argue that times have changed, as Adam Silver has noted, and those opposed will likely rely on the strict language within PASPA to keep the federal prohibition alive.