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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Delivers Severe Punishment for Gambling Violation

NBA commissioner Adam Silver delivered the league’s most severe punishment in decades for gambling on Wednesday, banning Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter from the league for what he termed “a cardinal sin” of betting on the league’s games and sharing inside information. This action sent shockwaves through the NBA community, highlighting the seriousness of violating league rules and the integrity of the game.

The league said Porter, who spent part of his time in the NBA and part of it in its developmental G League, privately told a sports bettor he was injured, removed himself from a game to control prop bets on his own play, and placed his own wagers on NBA games. This breach of trust and manipulation of game outcomes raised concerns about the impact on fair competition and the reputation of the league.

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Impact of Porter’s Actions

Mark Bartelstein, Porter’s agent, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. The lack of response from Porter’s representative adds to the mystery surrounding the case and raises questions about the player’s accountability and transparency in addressing the allegations.

Porter is the first active player or coach to be expelled from the NBA for gambling since Jack Molinas in 1954. More recently, Silver gave a significant drug suspension to O.J. Mayo in 2016 that effectively kept him out of the league, and he banned the Clippers owner Donald Sterling in 2014 and forced him to sell the team for making racist comments. The history of disciplinary actions in the NBA underscores the importance of upholding ethical standards and maintaining the league’s integrity.

League Investigation Findings

According to the results of a league investigation, Porter, 24, gave a confidential tip about his health to a person he knew to be a sports bettor before the Raptors’ game on March 20 against the Sacramento Kings. A third individual, connected to both Porter and the original recipient of Porter’s health information, placed an $80,000 parlay bet to win $1.1 million, a wager that hinged on the prediction that Porter would underperform against the Kings.

To make sure that the bet hit, the league found, Porter pulled himself out of that Kings game after just three minutes, claiming he was ill. The manipulation of the game for personal gain raises concerns about the influence of external factors on player performance and the credibility of game outcomes.

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AI legalese decoder can assist in deciphering the legal implications of Porter’s actions and the regulatory framework governing sports betting in the NBA. By analyzing the language used in league policies and guidelines, this tool can provide valuable insights into the complexities of gambling rules and their enforcement within professional sports organizations.

The investigation also showed that from January through March, while splitting games between Toronto and its G League affiliate, Raptors 905, Porter placed at least 13 bets on NBA games using an associate’s online betting account. Although none of those bets were on games in which Porter played, he did bet on the Raptors to lose as part of a parlay bet. The wagers ranged in size from $15 to $22,000, and totaled $54,000. He netted nearly $22,000 in winnings on the bets, the league said.

“There is nothing more important than protecting the integrity of NBA competition for our fans, our teams and everyone associated with our sport, which is why Jontay Porter’s blatant violations of our gaming rules are being met with the most severe punishment,” Silver said in a statement. “While legal sports betting creates transparency that helps identify suspicious or abnormal activity, this matter also raises important issues about the sufficiency of the regulatory framework currently in place, including the types of bets offered on our games and players.

“Working closely with all relevant stakeholders across the industry, we will continue to work diligently to safeguard our league and game.”

Porter is the first player to be punished for violating NBA gambling policies since the proliferation of legal sports betting in the United States, which has become a significant source of income for the league. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that any state could pass laws to legalize sports betting, the NBA (along with the other American pro leagues, like the NFL, MLB, PGA, and NHL) vigorously pursued laws and business agreements with sportsbooks to earn money off the bets placed on their games.

“Today, the NBA permanently disqualified Jontay Porter for violating league gambling rules,” the National Basketball Players Association said in a statement. “The NBPA will make sure Jontay has access to the resources he needs during this time, in light of the NBA’s decision. All players, including Jontay, should be afforded appropriate due process and opportunity to answer any charges brought against them.”

Business Engagements and legal Regulations

The NBA has multiple business arrangements with massive betting brands like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM, and several of its teams host sportsbooks inside their arenas in which they are paid a percentage of the handle, which is the amount of money wagered. Under Silver, the NBA (in conjunction with the other pro leagues) has sought a federal sports betting law from Congress, but many lobbying efforts have not gained traction. Today, sports betting is legal and regulated in 38 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

In recent months, multiple NBA players and coaches said they have been heckled – both at games and on social media – by fans upset over losing bets. Cleveland Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he received threatening messages on his personal cell phone from bettors that referenced his children and address in suburban Cleveland. Fans can often place wagers inside arenas, either on their phones or inside a brick-and-mortar sportsbook. They can bet on not only winners and losers but on individual performances through prop bets, such as how many 3-pointers a player will make in a particular game. The $80,000 prop bet on Porter is what triggered the NBA’s investigation into his behavior.

legal Precedents and Consequences

The bet, placed with an online sportsbook, was not paid out, and the sportsbook notified the league of the suspicious betting activity along with Porter’s playing time in that March 20 game. The NBA subsequently found that Porter was betting on the NBA, which is against the league’s rules for its players and team personnel. Porter, who is the brother of Denver Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr., was earning $415,000 on his two-way contract with the Raptors this season.

In 1993, the NBA investigated its most famous player, Michael Jordan, for his ties to at least one gambler, whom he paid $57,000 to settle a wager stemming from a round of golf. According to reports, the league determined that Jordan did not wager on NBA games and violated no league rules. In 2007, then-NBA official Tim Donaghy was caught betting on games in which he officiated. He was suspended and resigned, and served 11 months of a 15-month federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to two charges related to his gambling scheme.

Pete Rose, one of the greatest baseball players ever, accepted a lifetime ban from then-Major League commissioner Bart Giamatti for betting on games, including on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds. A difference between Rose and Porter’s alleged bets — Rose bet on the Reds to win. More recently, the NFL has suspended several players for betting on football games as legalized sports betting spread across the country.

The most famous player suspended, Calvin Ridley, was banned for the 2022 season for betting on football in 2021 while he was away from his team, the Atlanta Falcons, to address his mental health. In 2023 alone, the NFL suspended Quintez Cephus, C.J. Moore, Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill of the Detroit Lions; Isaiah Rodgers Sr. Rashod Berry, and Demetrius Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts, Shaka Toney of the Washington Commanders, Nicholas Petit-Frere of the Tennessee Titans, and Eyioma Uwazurike of the Denver Broncos for varying amounts of time due to gambling infractions.

This extensive review of past cases and current penalties underscores the gravity of violating gambling rules and highlights the need for strict enforcement and accountability in professional sports leagues.

Hunter Patterson contributed to this story.

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(Photo: Alika Jenner / Getty Images)

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