Heads of NBA, Marshall University Sports Differ on Sports Betting Risk

Adam Silver (l.), the head of the National Basketball Association, and the leader of one prominent college are at odds over risk and risk prevention presented by legalized sports betting.

Adam Silver, commissioner of the National Basketball Association and an early supporter of legalized sports betting, told the CBS News program 60 Minutes that legalized sports betting actually decreases the risk of athletes being compromised into fixing matches. The head of a top NCAA Division 1 basketball program, Marshall University Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, told the program just the opposite.

Silver said legalized sports betting incorporates digital safeguards against match-fixing, automatically recognizing unusual betting patters, which means corrupt gamblers may fear they’re more likely to get caught. “I think it decreases risk dramatically,” Silver told CBS News, “because we have access to the betting information. I think when you have an underground business operating in the shadows, you have no idea what people are betting on your own events.”

Hamrick said that fact won’t keep match-fixing from happening. “It’s gambling,” he told 60 Minutes. “It can be handled to a certain extent. But nobody can sit here and tell you that they can deal with this and be 100 percent clean… they can’t.

“There’s people that will do what they have to do to make a buck at the expense of an 18 or 19-year-old kid.

Hamrick predicted that with legalized gambling offering so many different ways to wager on a game, including more and more bets placed during games, it may be easier to convince an unpaid athlete to influence a game. “It’s very tempting. It’s very tempting,” he said. “They can be compromised. And our job is to make sure they’re not compromised.”