Speaking at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit on Thursday in New York, Silver said that he understood that cash-strapped states will pursue legalized sports betting and that the NBA can benefit from it.
"It's inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada," Silver said, per Bloomberg.com. "We will ultimately participate in that."
It's a change in tune for the NBA, which in 2012 joined the NCAA, NFL, MLB and NHL in suing New Jersey over its efforts to bring legalized sports betting to its casinos and race tracks. During deposition testimony in the New Jersey case, former NBA commissioner David Stern scolded Gov. Chris Christie for his efforts.
"The one thing I'm certain of is New Jersey has no idea what it's doing and doesn't care because all it's interested in is making a buck or two," Stern said in November 2012, according to court documents. "They don't care that it's at our potential loss."
The sports leagues, which were joined by the Department of Justice, ultimately prevailed over New Jersey with a majority decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. New Jersey, however, is continuing its pursuit of sports betting.
Stern retired in February, giving way to Silver and his openness to sports betting.
"If you have a gentleman's bet or a small wager on any kind of sports contest, it makes you that much more engaged in it," Silver said. "That's where we're going to see it pay dividends. If people are watching a game and clicking to bet on their smartphones, which is what people are doing in the United Kingdom right now, then it's much more likely you're going to stay tuned for a long time."
More than $3.6 billion was wagered on sports at Nevada sports books in 2013. The American Gaming Association, citing the National Gambling Impact Study, estimates that as much as $380 billion is wagered illegally in the U.S. annually.