Discussions on the issue have been taking place between the owners for several years, but until the other leagues come on board, it remains complicated for owners like Ted Leonsis of the Washington Wizards. Leonsis also owns the Washington Capitals of the NHL.
The other major professional sports leagues are not on the same page. The NFL says its opposition to legalized sports betting has not changed. The NHL did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Major League Baseball, while transitioning to new commissioner Rob Manfred, declined comment. “Should it be viewed in the competitive team-oriented sense that it is now, or does it become a vehicle for betting, which may in effect change the atmosphere in the stadiums and in the arenas?”
The NBA is not the only professional league in the United States taking a close look at sports betting legalization.
Sources with direct knowledge of the meetings came away believing the NHL is more open to legalization than Bettman’s comments indicate. “I leave it to them to make any public statements they want to make on it. He wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in November that called for Congress to create a federal framework and allow states to authorize betting on pro sports.
“I have talked to the commissioners in the other leagues about [legalizing sports betting],” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an exclusive interview with ESPN The Magazine in late January at the league’s Manhattan office. “I think there needs some attention to be paid to what sport is going to represent to young people,” Bettman said in an interview with CNN. The NHL is currently considering placing a franchise in Las Vegas, and like all the leagues, is participating in daily fantasy sports.
“Some of our owners are also owners in other leagues, so it’s something that they also want to talk to the commissioners in the other leagues about,” Silver said. “I think most of our owners’ view on the issue is that they’re comfortable with us taking a leadership position on the issue, but again are also mindful that it’s a complex issue, and is one that will ultimately require a legislative remedy, and not one that is necessarily at the top of their to-do list, in terms of active lobbying.”
In addition to the conversations between the commissioners, there have been other private meetings between council for the leagues to discuss the pros and cons of legalization, multiple sources with direct knowledge told ESPN.
While discussions are ongoing behind the scenes, Silver is the only active commissioner to come out publicly in support of legalization. The NHL’s Gary Bettman has been the only commissioner to speak out since Silver’s op-ed.
“While I wouldn’t categorize [daily fantasy] as sports betting,” Silver said, “on the continuum of no betting at all and legalized betting, it’s certainly somewhere on the spectrum, but not yet sports betting.”. I will say that certainly all of them are interested in having a better understanding of the issue, and I know have assigned people in their organizations to study intensively the issue as well.”
While he may not have the full support of the other leagues, Silver says NBA owners approve of his approach
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