NBA’s Switched Stance on Gambling May Be Too Late for Canada’s C-290 Bill

Of all the major North American sports associations, the National Basketball Association has exhibited the most progressive attitude when it comes to embracing and endorsing regulated sports betting on its games.  In recent days, with Canada’s C-290 sports betting bill on life support, the NBA has issued a formal statement reversing its long-time opposition to gambling on its games.

canada-flagWhy the switch?  And what effect will it have?  The C-290 sports betting measure is on its last legs, stymied by a Canadian Senate that has declined to bring the bill up for a vote.  The bill is set to expire in another four days, leaving only Monday and Tuesday for possible consideration and vote.

The NBA’s statement (below) is fine for what it is, and continues the softening of the league’s one-time anti-gambling stance first evidenced by NBA commish Adam Silver in a NY Times editorial last November.  Silver’s editorial there was more US-based, but covered the same ground: The betting is going on regardless in an underground industry worth billions each year across all of North America, and it would be better for all involved if -both- the US and Canada got their respective acts together and regulated the activity properly, as most of Europe and other global regions have already done.

Here’s what the NBA and Silver declared, in a formal, last-minute statement officially appended to C-290 for consideration:

The National Basketball Association (NBA) respectfully submits this statement concerning Bill C-290, which would eliminate the provision in Canada’s criminal code that prohibits provincial governments from conducting and managing bets on a single sporting event.

In November 2012, the NBA submitted a statement to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in opposition to Bill C-290. Since that time, the NBA’s views regarding legalized sports betting have continued to evolve, and the NBA’s current views on the issue are expressed in a November 13, 2014 Op-Ed by Commissioner Adam Silver in the New York Times titled “Legalize and Regulate Sports Betting.” As explained more fully in Commissioner Silver’s Op-Ed [], the NBA no longer opposes betting on professional sporting events in the United States provided that a national legislative framework is adopted that protects the integrity of the game under strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.

Consistent with the NBA’s current position regarding legalized sports betting in the United States, the NBA is no longer opposed to legalized sports betting in Canada so long as there is an appropriate legislative framework that protects the integrity of the game under strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards. These would include, at a minimum, mandatory monitoring and reporting of unusual betting-line movements; a licensing protocol for betting operators; minimum-age verification measures; geo-blocking technology to ensure betting is available only where it is legal; mechanisms to identify and exclude people with gambling problems; and education about responsible gaming.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide our views on this matter.

Among the things that have changed are that Silver himself took over the NBA’s top post, replacing the retired David Stern.  Silver’s viewpoints are clearly more progressive than his predecessor’s, even though his and the NBA’s new stance now contrasts with that of the other three main North American pro sports leagues.

The NBA also has a local interest in the latent fight over C-290, or its predecessor, if no action is taken next week.  With a stable franchise in Toronto (if not exactly a player-fave destination due to exchange rates), the NBA has its own toehold in place.  Ontario, Toronto’s provincial home, is also perhaps the province most in favor of sports betting legalization, so in some regards the NBA can be seen as acknowledging what its most ardent Canadian fans actually desire.

It may be too late, at least as far as C-290 is concerned, but it’s a step in the right direction nonetheless.

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