NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed sports betting during his annual press conference. The gist of his message was that the National Basketball Association is entitled to integrity fees. Other leagues like the NFL have backed off the idea in light of the opposition put up against the notion, but the NBA will not budge.
Silver never mentioned an outright desire for federal regulation of sports betting, but it seems that the league would prefer that over what they call a “50-state solution.” The biggest concern for the NBA—at least according to Silver—is that they have access to information pertaining to betting lines and trends. The NBA isn’t calling for specific identification information on bettors, but information that could help them pinpoint trends and spot irregular wagering behavior around specific events or athletes.
The NBA is by no means the crusader for sports betting integrity. Nevada, which has been the center of legal sports betting in the US for decades, tracks the local betting market for irregular behavior via partnerships between state regulators and sportsbook operators. If you look at the English Premier League, one of the biggest sports leagues in the world, you’ll find a comprehensive enforcement network on match-fixing and illegal betting maintained by local authorities, betting operators and the EPL itself. It is possible that the NBA wants this type of information to identify basketball betting trends in order to base marketing and business development campaigns around them.
When it comes to integrity fees, Silver is now embracing the fact that people realize they are essentially royalties paid out to the league. Silver said he feels the NBA is entitled to integrity fees to offset the costs of putting on games and enforcing fair play in a basketball betting environment. He says the league will spend roughly $7.5 billion on the upcoming season and integrity fees will help with that. Silver compared the situation to a musician being paid royalties for an organization using their song. NBA betting is not possible without NBA games, so Silver feels the league is entitled to a piece of that action. Interestingly enough, Nevada has never had to pay out any integrity fee to the NBA or any other league for that matter, and no league had an issue with them offering lines on their games. Now that sports betting is on the table for all 50 states, it appears the NBA is doing some damage control before the damage becomes too much.
As to whether or not Silver can pull this whole integrity fee thing off is another question. He said the idea has been received better in some states while others have flat out dismissed it. He addressed the gaming organizations that do not believe the NBA is entitled to integrity fees directly by saying he wants to work with them. This likely means the NBA is prepared to off state regulated betting organizations something that would make them follow along with the integrity fee platform. What remains is a mystery. The NBA’s stubbornness on this front will not deteriorate, so it is a matter of which side will fold first.