In recent days, the NBA has been rocked by allegations that one of its referees was gambling on games that he was officiating
. The claims have yet to be proven, but the official has already resigned from the league. NBA commissioner David Stern has called this an isolated incident, but at the same time is calling for a greater crackdown on illegal sports betting. The league could employ advanced statistical monitoring techniques to determine whether its referees have suspicious foul-calling patterns, although it would be difficult to prove anything definitive
. In a New York Times op-ed, economist Justin Wolfers makes the contrarian argument that the solution is to lift anti-gambling laws
that are in place throughout much of the country. Because sports betting is illegal in most areas, the industry is dominated by organized criminals, whose modus operandi is point shaving, the practice of paying players and refs to affect the final score of the game, but not actually the outcome, in order beat the Vegas spread. To those who participate in it, it feels like a harmless crime, since they're not actually throwing the game itself. Legalizing sports betting would help solve this problem as organized crime would have little to gain by operating in this business (customers would just go to legal, safer alternatives). Some entities may still opt to bet on games and then attempt to influence them, but as all betting would go through legitimate enterprises, suspicious activity is much more likely to get reported. Thus, while it sounds nice to "get tough" on gambling, it's the fact that we're already tough on it that's causing the problems.