Explaining Silver's betting stance

Adam Silver has been outspoken in his support of legalizing sports betting. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Editor's note: NBA commissioner Adam Silver is the first major professional sports league commissioner in the U.S. to publicly support legalizing sports betting outside of Nevada. His op-ed in the New York Times last week opened the door for discussion regarding the future of sports betting in the U.S.

Through a series of past and recent interviews with gambling experts, including university professors, legal authorities and veteran officials of the Nevada sports betting industry, ESPN Chalk writer David Purdum attempts to answer some of the questions regarding Silver's strategy and what's next for the NBA and American sports bettors.

What does Adam Silver want?

He wants Congress to alter the current federal sports betting prohibition and create a federal framework that allows states to legalize, regulate and monitor sports betting.

The current federal ban, under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, prohibits all but four states -- Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon -- from regulating sports betting.

Why is Silver doing this?

Silver told WFAN's Mike Francesa in a Friday radio interview that he wants to start the discussion of federal regulation of sports betting. Silver had mentioned his feelings on sports betting twice earlier this year, but his op-ed in the New York Times was his boldest move yet.

Silver told Francesa that NBA ownership, which is trending younger and more tech-savvy, was on board for starting the discussion of legalized sports betting.

"There were a bunch of owners that have been tired of the hypocrisy for years," Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN in an email. "I'm proud that Adam took the initiative."

The discussions ultimately will include potential ways to generate revenue through sports betting. Licensing fees and sports book advertising deals, such as the ones European soccer teams embrace, are among the possibilities.

Would this affect the chances of an NBA franchise landing in Las Vegas?

According to Silver, the answer is no. Silver told Francesa that Nevada's legal sports betting is not preventing an NBA from entering the market, so legalizing it across the U.S. would make no difference.

MGM Resorts is building a $350 million, 20,000-seat arena on The Strip that is expected to be ready in 2016.

How would legalized sports betting help protect the integrity of the games?

Art Manteris, the dean of Las Vegas sports book directors, is one of many industry experts who believes increased regulation and monitoring by licensed, trained officials will only help protect the integrity of the games. Increased regulation will add a deterrent to unscrupulous parties, who likely will avoid the regulated market in favor of the anonymity the unregulated offshore market offers.

Increased regulation, however, will not prevent match-fixing, but it will identify unusual betting patterns that may indicate something isn't on the level.

Opinions vary, though, including from Third Circuit Court of Appeals judges, who stated "more legal gambling leads to more total gambling, which in turn leads to an increased incentive to fix or attempt to fix the Leagues' matches."

Are the other sports leagues on board?

Using their most recent public comments as a gauge, the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball are not on the same page as Silver and the NBA when it comes to sports betting.

The NFL's long-time stance against sports betting has not changed: The league remains firmly against gambling on NFL games. It does not consider fantasy football a form of gambling and is not against other forms of gambling, including state lotteries and casino gaming. Both teams and individual players are partnering with or promoting daily fantasy games.

Major League Baseball, as of Sunday, had not offered a public reaction to Silver's op-ed. Baseball's history with gambling scandals dates back to the Chicago Black Sox in 1919 and includes, more recently, Pete Rose's ban for life for betting on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds.

Major League Baseball was against daily fantasy sports last season, but changed its tune this year and has endorsed daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings as the "Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com."

The NHL has been the most outspoken after Silver's op-ed. Commissioner Gary Bettman, in an interview with CNN's Rachel Nichols on Friday, expressed his concerns about sports becoming a "vehicle for betting."

"Do you want people at football and basketball games rooting for the spread or rooting for their favorite team?" Bettman asked.

In an email to the New York Times, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly questioned some unspecified elements of Silver's op-ed, writing, "It is a complex issue, and at least from our perspective, one that does not lend itself easily to simple 'agree' or 'disagree.'"

The NHL recently partnered with DraftKings and has had discussions about putting a franchise in Las Vegas. Daly, however, told the Minnesota Star Tribune that the NHL might ask Nevada Gaming Control to prohibit betting on games involving any team located in Las Vegas.

"You don't want guys in the stands with bet tickets in their hands and the only reason they're watching the game is so they can cash in on a bet afterwards," Daly told the Star Tribune. "That's not an environment you want to foster or create as a professional sports league."

How much is bet on sports in the United States?

More than $3.6 billion was bet on sports at Nevada sports books in 2013, according to the Center of Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Gaming experts believe that represents only 1 percent of the total amount wagered on sports in the U.S.

In his op-ed, Silver cited an estimated $400 billion illegal sports betting market. The American Gaming Association references a study by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission that estimates as much as $380 billion is bet on sports illegally annually. The data behind those studies, though, have not been disclosed.

The AGA praised Silver's efforts and announced Friday that it would be working to identify the size and scope of illegal gambling in the U.S. in coming months.

"The gaming industry is committed to thwarting illegal gambling wherever it occurs," AGA president and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement. "We look forward to partnering with the NBA and others who share this goal."

The vast majority of illegal sports betting is done online through websites based offshore, mostly in the Caribbean. Big offshore sports books have large staffs, including marketing departments. They have been around for decades, despite the Department of Justice's efforts to shut them down.

Does this change Silver's stance on the New Jersey case?

Why would Silver do this while also suing New Jersey to prevent the state from offering legalized sports betting at its casinos and racetracks?

Silver does not support unregulated sports betting, which means the NBA, to this point, is staying in the case. The NBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA have been fighting for more than two years to stop New Jersey from legalizing sports betting at the state's casinos and racetracks.

During the legal case, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and lawyers for the Department of Justice have said PASPA does not stop states from repealing laws prohibiting sports betting. New Jersey is trying to partially repeal its laws prohibiting sports betting, while also limiting it to casinos and racetracks, where it would be monitored by private parties.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp will hear oral arguments from New Jersey and the sports leagues Thursday in Trenton. He then will rule on the leagues' request for a permanent injunction and on the merits of the case.

Legal experts make the leagues huge favorites to prevail in district court. New Jersey is expected to appeal, and the case likely will end up back in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where the state is believed to have a much better chance. In fact, a theory has been floated that Silver may believe that the leagues could lose in appeals court, and he wants to get out ahead of the decision.

What is the current status of sports betting bills in Congress?

Two U.S. Congressmen from New Jersey, Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone, have introduced and reintroduced sports betting bills in past years. Neither bill has generated any interest from Congress.

"While I believe the recent actions New Jersey has taken are legal, I agree with Silver that federal law must be changed so that individual states can actively regulate sports betting on their own," Pallone said in a statement released Friday. "I have worked hard in Congress to change federal sports betting law, and I will continue to fight to do so. States like New Jersey should be able to do what is best for them."

In an effort to get Congress' attention, New Jersey Sen. Raymond Lesniak, the state's leading champion of sports betting, is starting a petition this week to lobby Congress to repeal PASPA. The goal is 1 million signatures nationwide.

Will legal gambling create more overall gambling?

Yes, there will be an increase, but it's not expected to be significant.

Gaming experts like Sean Patrick Griffin, a professor at The Citadel and author of "Gaming the Game," which details the NBA gambling scandal involving former ref Tim Donaghy, question whether avid bettors who are already playing offshore or with a local bookmaker, who may allow betting on credit, will drop those options to play at a legal book that requires money up front to wager. So any increase in total gambling on the NBA likely will come from new, recreational gamblers who are now willing to give it a try since it is legal. But this isn't expected to be a giant boost to overall gambling.