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Stern: Legal sports betting nationwide would be ‘big hit to organized crime’

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Steve Marcus

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) convention at the Sands Expo and Convention Center Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 | 3:49 p.m.

Stern on Legalized Sports Betting

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern responds to a question during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) convention at the Sands Expo and Convention Center Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. Launch slideshow »

Legal betting nationwide on professional sports would help protect the integrity of American sports while cutting down substantially on black market wagering, former NBA Commissioner David Stern said today.

Speaking at Las Vegas’ Global Gaming Expo, Stern echoed the words of his successor and current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has advocated for nationwide legalization of betting since taking over the position in 2014.

“There’s a lot out there that’s being bet illegally,” Stern said during a 50-minute talk with American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman in front of about 500 show attendees. “If we can fix this, it would be a big hit to organized crime.”

Anywhere from $100 billion to $300 billion is spent annually on illegal sports wagering, according to estimates from scholars and the American Gaming Association. Stern, who served as the NBA’s commissioner from 1984 to 2014, said that money would be taxed under a legal system.

But like Silver, Stern called for federal authorization of gambling and denounced the practice of having it regulated state by state.

He called the idea of working with 50 different state regulating bodies “too bureaucratic,” citing recent athletic and gaming commission failures in New Jersey and New York as examples of how state regulations would be “all over the place.”

“We’re not going to have our game, or any game, pecked away by individual state bureaus of political patronage,” Stern said.

Legal betting would also benefit the NBA and other professional sports leagues, Stern said.

“I believe there’s going to be a lot more competition for the sports viewers,” he said. “(Betting) will be a driver of people to watch those games in which they have a financial interest, and as a result, they’ll be more likely to watch.”

Stern was opposed to sports betting throughout his career, arguing, among other things, that wagering on sports threatens fans’ relationship with teams, instead focusing interest on money lines and point spreads.

Stern changed course last fall, siding with his successor in calling on Congress to create a federal framework of nationwide regulations for sports betting.

Stern said he also supports daily fantasy sports and recently held an investment in a daily fantasy sports company.

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