Last updated on: March 21st, 2022

NBA’s Thoughts On Making Sports Betting Legal

The National Basketball Association was the victim of a PR nightmare when, in 2007, veteran referee Tim Donaghy was investigated, tried, and found guilty of various charges related to a point-fixing scheme wherein he actively bet on games in which he officiated. He also had a network of bookies with whom he would regularly discuss non-public pregame affairs in order to help his associates manipulate the spreads in their favor. These revelations dropped fan trust in the NBA to new lows, and the league has worked extremely hard in the past decade to recover from Donaghy’s actions. The NBA had a very good reason to shun any association with gambling in the past.

However, that all changed when PASPA was repealed by the US Supreme Court in May of 2018. To many people’s surprise, the NBA was actually the first league to embrace legal sports betting in the US. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was on ESPN before and after PASPA’s repeal touting how a regulated sports betting market would be a safer one. He vouched for a new federal law to oversee sports betting but that never went through. The League has also lobbied for integrity fees and royalties for years now as well. The NBA is all in on legal sports betting, so long as they are able to make a profit from it.

Does The NBA Support Legal Sports Betting?

The relationship between the NBA and the legal sports betting industry continues to expand in 2022. Along with the support of the NBA commissioner, the owner of the Charlotte Hornets and NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan has recently signed a deal with the sports betting company DraftKings. Jordan is now on the Board of Directors as a special advisor for the company. Though he was always known as an avid sports bettor this deal creates official support and ties to NBA ownership and the sports betting industry.

What Kinds Of Legal Sports Betting Regulations Does The NBA Want?

In the same public letter Silver used to broach the subject of legal sports betting in the first place, he also explained the extent to which he believes the industry needs to be regulated and safeguarded. “Any new approach must ensure the integrity of the game,” said Silver, suggesting mandatory monitoring and reporting of betting-line peculiarities, a licensing standard to establish bookmaker legitimacy, age-verification technologies, and geo-fencing systems to limit access to sportsbooks and betting to only those states and municipalities where sports betting is legal. Like most pro-gambling people of influence, of course, Silver also supports a vehicle by which to educate fans about “responsible gaming” and to “identify and exclude people with gambling problems.” That last bit is unfortunate, as prohibitions don’t work and only drive people underground (which is what this is all about to begin with), but the rest seems logical and user-friendly enough.

How Would The NBA Benefit From Legal Sports Betting?

Again, Silver answers this question in an uncommonly honest way: “It’s good for business. I don’t want to hide from that.” Silver further explains that he is not talking about “business” in the sense of being “actively involved in any of the betting,” but that it undeniably “creates more engagement.” In other words, fans who have a few bucks riding on a game are going to be more enthusiastic and interested in that game, particularly when their team is getting walloped and they’d otherwise simply turn off the TV or change the channel. In-game betting – typically comprised of prop bets and futures – has the well-known effect of keeping such fans’ eyeballs glued to the screen. The added entertainment is good for the fans, the extra fans are good for the advertisers, and the advertisers are good for the NBA. Somewhere in there, the TV stations benefit, too. Everyone wins.

Generally speaking, this is a similar stance to the one Silver took when asked by NBA lawyers whether or not to sue YouTube for hosting unofficially posted game and highlight clips. Silver opted not to take legal action, deferring instead to the reality that the next generation of fans is growing up on the video-sharing platform, not traditional cable networks. Maybe that’s why the NBA owns the coveted 18-29 demographic.

Setting The Silver Standard

Adam Silver obviously understands our evolving world, and he seems to realize how important it is to shake off the taboos of underground tradition so it can find a happy medium with aboveboard technology. With his outspoken and thoughtful support for legal sports betting under the umbrella of state regulation and oversight, he has done more than any figure in the popular media to posterize PASPA at the rim. He’s done his research. He understands that legal betting poses no more risk to the integrity of the game than illegal betting, and he’s ready for his product to offer the fans exactly what they’re asking for.

When it comes to sports betting, Silver is the gold standard, and other leagues would be wise to look at his stance as the model of pragmatism going forward.


NBA’s Thoughts On Legal Sports Betting FAQs

How Many Sports Betting Partnerships Does The NBA Have?

The NBA has a few sports betting partnerships currently. Deals with FanDuel, Fox Bet, and MGM Resorts are just the tip of the iceberg to the NBA’s embracement of sports betting. With these partnerships, bookmakers have access to the NBA’s trademarks as well as official league data. This allows sportsbooks to supply live betting on the NBA more efficiently. Live betting is the premier way to wager on sports so these partnerships simply make sports betting that much bettor in the long run.

When Is Virtual Betting On The NBA Coming?

‘NBA Last 90’ is a virtual betting platform that will essentially drop players into the final 90 seconds of a fictional game between two real teams. The 90 seconds of the clip will be pulled randomly from past footage of previous matches between the two teams. An algorithm will ensure that the end result of each game is random, thus creating thousands of betting opportunities. The 2019-2020 NBA season marks the initial release date. 

What Other Avenues Has The NBA Explored?

The NBA is already far ahead of the other US sports leagues due to their embrace of technology. Already, the NBA has a major partnership with Take Two Interactive, the maker of popular video game NBA 2K. The NBA created the 2K League, and even promoted betting on matchups during their programming.