By Steve Silverman
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Adam Silver has taken to the pages of The New York Times to go where no commissioner has ever gone before.
He has advocated the legalization of sports betting and said he wants to take it out of the darkness and bring it into the light.
He has used many of the same arguments that gambling advocates have backed for years and decades. Since gambling on professional sports is illegal outside of Nevada, those who want to bet on sports are forced to do business with “illicit bookmaking operations” or “shady offshore websites.”
No argument with Silver there. When you make a bet with a bookie – does anyone really do that anymore? – he may be there one week and gone the next. Even if you are doing business with a bookie that you’ve known for years and had nary a dispute, you are both operating on blind faith that neither one of you will cheat the other.
Most sports bettors love the convenience of the offshore website, because you can see your bet on the light of your computer screen. You get to see how the wager turned out and how much you got paid in beautiful green light — or how much you lost in painful, harsh red tones.
Quick, hit the panic button — your wife is walking down the hall. You don’t want her to see what you’ve been doing with Samantha’s college fund …
Legalized sports betting also would create a whole new stream of revenue for the government. That vig would go to the feds instead of the offshore account or Leo at the butcher shop.
So everyone would win, right?
Well, if Silver’s advice is to be followed, the NBA would certainly win. The NBA is willing to climb out from behind the line drawn in the sand by Kenesaw Mountain Landis following the 1919 Black Sox fiasco because there’s money to be made by the lords of professional basketball.
We’re not talking about taking a cut of the vig. We’re talking about greater interest in the NBA, in NBA fantasy sports and a new layer of fandom.
The NBA has already struck a partnership with the fantasy-sports website FanDuel, which allows fans to compete on a daily basis with others by picking out the most productive players – points, rebound and assists — in a given game.
You’re not married to a league on a full-season basis. You play when you feel like it, and if you are good at it, you make money. If you are bad, you lose.
That’s how it is for those who like to pick against the spread in basketball. If you’re good at it, you win. If you’re bad at it, you lose.
Fantasy sports is a form of gambling. Unlike throwing dice or playing blackjack, the player’s knowledge, intelligence and foresight factor into the process. It’s not all based on chance.
But anyone who has picked games against the spread knows that a lot of luck is involved. You can have an NBA game or an NFL game doped out perfectly, and one bad bounce, stupid penalty or gust of wind changes everything.
That one bad break may cause a bettor to lose his money. When he loses his money, he wants to get it back. So he makes the next bet, and the next bet and the one after that.
That’s how the addiction is born.
Those who run pro sports know it, and they thrive because of it. Now Silver and his minions in the NBA are doing business with the fantasy-sports industry, and they want those ventures to thrive. That’s why Silver advocated the legalization of sports gambling in the Times.
He’s not a visionary, nor is he courageous. He just wants his league to make more money, and he is hoping to get support from the other leaders in the major sports.
Nowhere in the column does Silver look out for the man who hurts himself and his family with his gambling. While there may be lip service to the issues of problem gambling, rest assured that neither Silver nor any of the powers that be care about that one iota.
In this dangerous world, sports fans are responsible for their own sobriety, no matter how many temptations are put in front of them.
And there are more temptations every single day.
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