LAS VEGAS — Adam Silver gets it, and he’s going to keep repeating it until people finally listen.
Forget the conspiracy theories about No. 1 picks and why Draymond Green gets to play after a couple well placed kicks. I’ll give Silver a pass on that, though his plan to put ads on uniforms crosses a line of no return.
But when it comes to sports betting, the NBA commissioner is one of the most enlightened people in professional sports.
That was evident again this week when Silver repeated his call to legalize sports betting throughout the country. It was a powerful statement, and it wasn’t the first time Silver has weighed in on the issue.
He stripped away the phobia, avoided hyperbole and simply stated what most Americans now agree with anyway.
“It should be legal, it should be regulated, it should be transparent,” Silver said in an ESPN interview .
Hopefully Roger Goodell was watching, though that might have been difficult. The NFL commissioner has had his head buried in the sand for so long on the betting issue that he doesn’t see anything about the topic very well.
Still, some of his owners might be softening their positions. Faced with prospect of the Raiders moving to Las Vega s they’ve suddenly had to begin addressing gambling.
What they’re finding — despite all the hysteria over the years about the possibility of fixed games and shady gamblers — is that it doesn’t look bad at all.
“We’re just living in a different world, technology-wise,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft told USA Today. “The risks in Vegas are no longer exclusive to Vegas.”
This isn’t 1948, when a player making $100 a game might try to get more by passing off inside info to a bookie. The rise in the popularity of sports betting and technological advancements have changed the way these things operate.
Games barely budge off the original numbers set by the oddsmakers in Las Vegas. When they do, it’s because Tom Brady got suspended or some other event occurs after the line is set.
If they do ever move for unknown reasons, both the bookies and the bettors in Vegas would recognize it immediately and just as quickly find out why.
“You can’t get any more transparent than we are,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker at the South Point sports book. “There’s nothing we can hide, nothing we can’t find. It’s all above the board.”
Vaccaro, who grew up placing bets in a pool hall outside Pittsburgh, has been running sports books in Las Vegas for 40 years. He’s seen the evolution of an industry once run by nefarious characters in smoke-filled back rooms to one operated by public corporations who won’t risk billions on illegal activity.
He remembers the handful of betting scandals that have occurred over the years, including the 1994 Arizona State University point shaving that was uncovered partly through the efforts of Vegas bookies.
“We saw it coming and we informed our compliance people who informed lawyers who informed gaming control,” Vaccaro said. “We know how the ball rolls.”
In Nevada, legal sports betting has exploded in popularity in recent years. A record $132 million was bet on the Super Bowl alone, and even without football bettors wagered nearly $300 million in the state’s books in April.
New Jersey has been pushing for legal sports betting , only to be thwarted so far by court opposition by the NFL and others. There are rumblings about possible federal legislation and grumblings that if daily fantasy sports wagering is allowed so should traditional sports betting.
What is clear is that the social stigma is gone from gambling in general, largely because of the proliferation of casinos and lotteries throughout the country. Casual betting is now accepted by most people — including the commissioner of the NBA — as an entertainment activity that not only does no harm to the sport but actually increases its popularity.
Yes, Adam Silver gets it. And it’s time leaders of the other major sports do the same.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg