Stern considering rules on gambling in NBA


Registered User
Jan 26, 2005
One of the early warning signs that caused the NBA to first investigate disgraced referee Tim Donaghy was an allegation that he frequented Atlantic City casinos.

While NBA commissioner David Stern insists Donaghy was a rogue criminal dishing inside information to gamblers, Stern has now revealed that roughly half of the league's 56 officials have also visited casinos in the past few years.

Red flags? No, Stern says. Just a bad rule.

The commissioner emphasized that none of those referees had acted criminally as Donaghy had, and that none would be punished. Instead, he said he would change the rules to allow game officials to visit casinos in the off-season.

"The reality is that about half of our officials have told us they have been to casinos in the last several years," Stern said in a conference call following the owners' meetings yesterday. "And actually I have made the decision not to discipline them because I think the rule is overly broad. ... So, we look at our rules completely and come up with a new set of rules, which I think is going to allow casino gambling at certain times of the year."

Stern said the rules against gambling were so broad, including prohibitions against the state lottery, golf and poker, that almost all the referees had probably violated some provision, and the code was simply unenforceable.

"I know they probably shouldn't have done it," he said of the casino visits, "they know they probably shouldn't have done it. But I'm not happy with the overall situation of an over-broad rule and spotty enforcement. ... We've got to decide what to do firmly, and fully throughout the year and have consequences based upon thorough follow-up enforcement and detection."

Stern said the revised rules have not been finalized yet, but he outlined some new guidelines:

The names of referees will be posted the days of games to eliminate any possible edge a gambler might get from that knowledge (much like the NFL's injury report).

Cell phone use by officials, particularly in locker rooms, will be limited.

The league will make public admissions when referees make mistakes on important plays.

Referees will be encouraged to be more communicative with players and coaches.

Enhanced security operations and background checks.

Stern also discussed the situation with the Knicks, who just lost a civil case for sexual harassment against coach/president Isiah Thomas and owner James Dolan. Stern said he is reserving the right to penalize the team within the league structure once the judicial process is completed.

Both Thomas and Dolan have appealed a recent judgment against them for sexual harassment, and Stern said he would not make any decisions until the appeals process is complete. Stern said he has spoken to Dolan on a regular basis about it.

"It's currently on appeal," he said. "We've discussed it and I reported on it to the owners at the meeting we just finished. My own focus was to make sure as a league that we become sensitized to the issue, that we have a policy league-wide."

Stern denied a report that said he was unhappy with Dolan's stewardship of the team and had asked Dolan's father, Charles, to take a more active role.