OLG 'hopeful' of adding NBA to Pro-Line

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:04 PM ET

It has been 16 years since NBA commissioner David Stern forced the Ontario Government to take the NBA off itís Pro-Line betting cards, making it a precondition of the league granting Toronto a franchise.

Apparently his disdain for any gambling associated with his league is wearing off. The first indication of such a shift came back in 2007 when the league took itís all-star game to Las Vegas.

Rui Brum, a spokesperson for the Ontario and Lottery Gaming Corporation confirmed Tuesday his group is presently in talks with both the NBA and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd, which owns the Raptors, regarding the return of NBA games to the Pro-Line lottery.

Brum said the OLG was ďvery hopefulĒ of a resolution in the near future but declined to provide any more details.

Stern and then premiere Bob Rae went to battle in 1994 over Sternís insistence that the NBA be removed from Pro-Line.

Stern, at the time, wanted to distance the NBA from any kind of gambling ó legally or otherwise.

Rae was concerned with the potential loss of millions of dollars in revenue which was being used primarily to subsidize provincial health care. That and the optics of having an American-run professional sports league trying to dictate provincial policy put Rae in a precarious position.

Eventually John Bitove Jr., the front man of the group that had been awarded the franchise by the league, brokered a complicated deal that would appease both parties.

As part of the agreement between the two, the city of Toronto was awarded the NBA Draft in 1995 while the Raptors agreed to pay its own charitable foundation $5 million over the first three years of the teamís existence and $1 million a year thereafter to make up for the loss of Pro-Line revenue.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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