NBA proposes legal framework for US sports betting

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has set out a series of proposals for the implementation of legal sports betting across the United States.

At a New York Senate Committee hearing yesterday (January 24th), NBA senior vice president and assistant general counsel for league governance and policy Dan Spillane said it was time that the ongoing prohibition of sports betting in the US was overturned and regulations brought in.

Spillane said a different approach was needed to allow fans to safely and legally wager on sporting events while protecting the integrity of competitions.

The NBA's preferred solution would be for the US Congress to adopt a federal framework to allow states to authorise sports betting, provided they comply with strict regulatory requirements and technical safeguards.

However, Spillane added, the most likely scenario would see the US Supreme Court invalidate or limit the scope of PASPA, which would lead to betting being legalised on a state-by-state basis.

Spillane noted that this had prompted a number of states lawmakers to propose legislation that would allow for sports betting to be rolled out should PASPA be overturned.

He cited a 2013 bill passed in New York State allowing its casinos to offer sports wagering but warned that this bill, like similar pieces of legislation, lacked safeguards to protect sporting integrity. As a result the NBA has put forward a new regulatory framework for legal sports betting in New York, which Spillane said could act as a blueprint for other states.

The NBA is calling for a range of controls to help improper conduct be quickly identified, such as mandating operators to alert authorities to unusual betting activity, and having all betting data collected in a centralised system. It also recommends new criminal laws be passed out to discourage betting-related corruption.

To cover the costs of new compliance and enforcement systems being rolled out to mitigate the risk of legal betting, the Association demands operators pay 1 per cent of all money wagered on each match to the relevant sports league.

The NBA is also looking to have the right to limit betting on certain matches, as well as certain bet types.

"Certain types of bets are more susceptible to manipulation than others, such as whether a player will commit the first foul of the game," Spillane explained. "Different sports will have different types of bets, and so each league needs the ability to approve the types of wagering that are offered."

Any legislation must set out a range of consumer protection controls, such as age restrictions, self-exclusion programmes and gambling advertising restrictions.

Finally, Spillane said, the law should cover betting on internet and mobile channels, rather than just land-based. If customers are restricted to betting in casinos, he said, it would do little to draw people away from illegal online sportsbooks.

"Each of these protections is critical. The NBA's first and paramount responsibility is to protect the integrity of professional basketball and preserve public confidence in the league and our sport," he concluded. "We urge the legislature to act as soon as possible to amend the existing law and create a robust regulatory structure that includes the protections we have outlined today."

This marks the first time a major US sports league has voiced its support for sports betting regulation. Spillane said that the NBA had initially supported a prohibition on expanded legal sports betting, and had been instrumental in the passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act into law. Despite this prohibition illegal sports betting was flourishing across the country.

"It is impossible to measure the amount of betting with any precision. But many experts estimate that illegal betting in the US is in the range of $100bn to $200bn per year, and some think the number is even higher," Spillane explained.

"These bets are taken in a black market that does not support local businesses, cannot be taxed, and most important from our perspective, cannot be monitored or regulated."

With other forms of legal gambling becoming more prevalent alongside the illegal sports betting market, the NBA had concluded that prohibition was no longer an option.


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