It's time to celebrate! The NBA season starts tonight!

  • Adam Silver has been a proponent of legal sports betting since he took office in 2014.
  • The NBA is projected to increase revenues by $585 million per year with legal sports betting.
  • With international gaming partnerships, the NBA should expect more revenue, especially from China.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The NBA season is ready to get started on Tuesday and this will be the second year the league has fared with legal sports betting within the country.

In the late 2000s, the NBA had found themselves in the middle of a betting scandal that rocked the professional sports world. One of the most talked-about sports betting scandals, the Tim Donaghy years left a sour taste of sports betting in the minds of many NBA fans.

Still, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took the reigns of the league a few years after the situation and focused his attention on bringing legal sports betting to the forefront.

Adam Silver, The NBA, And Sports Betting

Silver has always been of the mindset that regulations around the industry only help solve issues surrounding integrity and shady betting habits. While many believe Silver is pro-gambling, he explained his mindset in a 2015 interview.

“I view myself more as pro-transparency and someone who’s a realist in the business,” said Silver. “The best way for the league to monitor our integrity is for that betting action to move toward legal betting organizations, where it can be tracked. That’s the pragmatic approach.”

Silver gained this mindset while abroad when he was in line to take over for David Stern. From understanding how European and Chinese sports leagues dealt with sports betting in their jurisdictions, Silver was able to focus on this issue early.

“Then we began getting approached by sports-betting companies outside of the United States, where it’s legal, to do business with them,” said Silver. “As we became more of a global company, I began to think about what our policy should be here.”

Silver has always harped on the idea that people are betting on the NBA whether that be through legal or unlicensed channels. As the hobby is fully engulfed in the sport at this point, it was Silver’s mindset that legalizing sports betting would only help catch these potential integrity issues.

When the betting is occurring through offshore accounts, there is no way to monitor the types of wagers being accepted or a way to find out when “red flags” are going off.

Now, as the league has paired with many sports betting operators, the NBA can record the betting activity happening in real-time. The league can offer recourse such as changing the referees at halftime, talking to the players off of the court, or opening a full investigation.

Sports Betting Partnerships In The NBA

This regulation wouldn’t be possible without the states with legal sports betting coming together and collectively being a part of a monitoring service. With the NBA in multiple partnerships, all of the NBA’s data and betting information is recorded on multiple platforms, giving operators the ability to figure out unusual betting habits.

MGM is the official gaming partner of the NBA – the first of a partnership between a sports betting operator and a professional sports league.

Since making the arrangement with MGM, the NBA has also inked deals with FOX Bet, FanDuel, and William Hill as authorized gaming operators. This simply means the sportsbooks are able to use official league data, team logos, and highlights in their properties, while the NBA is to advertise for the operators on their website and at stadiums.

NBA China

But the NBA is also taking its partnerships overseas. Aside from William Hill (United Kingdom), the NBA has also paired with The Stars Group (Canada) and Tabcorp (Australia). With the NBA now permitting jerseys to be sponsored by international companies, don’t be surprised to see a gaming logo brandished on a team’s uniform.

As the NBA went through the firestorm of having all Chinese partners suspend their ties with the league, one wonders if Silver will focus on attacking that largest NBA fanbase – China.

It was estimated in 2010 that anywhere from HK$4 billion to HK$7 billion ($0.5 billion to $0.9 billion) a year is gambled on the NBA in Hong Kong. With China having legal sports betting in some parts of the country, the NBA could include another international sports betting partner.

This would certainly come with backlash from many American fans of the NBA, but there is no denying the revenue and worth of the league would rise with a deal.

As a reference, the American Gaming Association released a report in 2018 detailing the increased revenues associated with sports betting and the NBA inside of the country. An estimated $585 million was projected for the NBA to make per year with the increased fan engagement, TV advertising/media rights, and merchandise.

There are more fans of the NBA in China than there are residents in the USA so this number would pale in comparison to what it could be in China. The NBA’s next move should clearly be to focus on China, despite the preseason battles of political controversies a few weeks ago.

It now comes to the point in wondering if the NBA wants to continue to make money from legal sports betting through any means necessary or will be selective with international operators and countries.

Which every way the future of the NBA and China work out, the fact remains that the NBA is the sports organization that is the most accepting of sports betting. In time, expect to continue seeing team valuations, players’ contracts, and coaches’ salaries increase with the influx of legal sports betting.

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