N.B.A. Pushes for Legal Sports Gambling Nationwide and a Cut of the Bets


The former N.B.A. referee Tim Donaghy, left, pictured in 2007 with the basketball coach Mike Brown, pleaded guilty that year to betting on games he officiated.

Rebecca Cook/Reuters

In a first for a major American professional sports league, the N.B.A. on Wednesday formally asked for new laws that would legalize sports gambling nationwide.

“Our conclusion is that the time has come for a different approach,” Dan Spillane, associate counsel for the league, said in prepared remarks to a New York Senate committee on gambling.

Spillane urged the state to pass a “comprehensive sports betting bill that would serve as a model for a 50-state solution.” Currently, sports betting is legal in only four states — most prominently in Nevada — because of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or Paspa, passed in 1992 with the N.B.A.’s support.

In 2007, Tim Donaghy, an N.B.A. referee, pleaded guilty to betting on games he officiated, which seemed to have a galvanizing effect on the league. David Stern, then the N.B.A.’s commissioner, later said that legalized betting would help the league better track potential Donaghys. His successor, Adam Silver, called for legalized sports betting in an opinion piece in The New York Times over three years ago.

But all the while, the league’s official position remained the same. The N.B.A. is currently a defendant in New Jersey’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Paspa. The Supreme Court heard that case last month, and the justices sounded skeptical of the ban.

With New York and other states considering legislation to legalize sports betting in the event that Paspa is overturned, the N.B.A. “cannot sit on the sidelines,” Spillane said. He said all such legislation should do the following, at minimum: monitor betting to prevent “improper conduct” and unusual betting…

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