David Stern and his league may be facing the biggest scandal of his tenure (l’affaire Donaghy), but that apparently won’t stop the commish from openly speculating on the “huge opportunity” that legalized betting could someday provide for the NBA.
Stern is careful to say that his league isn’t fully committed to the idea, but that it’s definitely in the realm of possibilities for the future.
Without committing himself in any way, Stern acknowledged that sports betting could create a new stream of revenue for the NBA — not unlike the interest that March Madness betting pools have created for the NCAA tournament. “You’re right about the threat that we perceive, and we stay on it,” said Stern of the menace of illegal gambling rings. “I think the threat is the same legal and illegal — the threat is there.”
“Gambling, however it may have moved closer to the line [of becoming acceptable], is still viewed on the threat side,” he said. “Although we understand fully why, buried within that threat there may be a huge opportunity as well.”
Revenues are down across the League — and for some teams, dramatically so — so it’s not surprising that David Stern is exploring all kinds of possibilities to refill the NBA’s coffers. It’s one of the reasons why a Russian billionaire with a vert sketchy past is on the verge of owning a franchise.
Whether or not legalized betting becomes a reality under Stern’s leadership is impossible to know at this point. But that it’s even being contemplated, and that he’s willing to discuss it with reporters speaks volumes about where the League stands financially these days.