The gambling industry in the United States has come a long way from online slots at a few casinos to the specter or legal sports betting on both professional and amateur sports. Even professional leagues that were once opposed to sports betting on their games have begun to think in the opposite direction.
Tide Began to Turn Only Four Years Ago
It was only in 2014 that NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, floated the idea of legalizing sports betting in the US. Before that, the National Basketball Association (NBA) was, if not adamantly opposed to betting on their games, to being at least highly suspect of the practice. The league has now embraced the idea of legal sports betting. In the league’s view, if the United States Supreme Court rules that the 1992 law called PASPA is unconstitutional, it would allow any state to regulate sports betting within its jurisdiction. PASPA grandfathered in four states—Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware—where sports betting was already legal.
Anticipation and Planning
The league feels that the possibility that the Supreme Court will rule that sports betting should be permitted is great enough for the league to begin planning for its implementation rather than sit on the sidelines, opposing the practice, and being caught unready to regulate itself in view of the sea of change that legalized sports betting is expected to engender.
Rick Welts, President of the Golden State Warriors, one of the top three teams in the league, was quoted during All Star Weekend that, “… no one is really able to predict what path this will take [but] you could see some version of NBA telecasts dedicated to the wagering audience.”
How Will That Happen?
Welts didn’t elaborate on how NBA telecasts emphasizing the gambling aspect might play out but we can use our own imagination to elicit a few possibilities.
When teams play each other, there is always an over / under bet, meaning: will the combined score be over a given number or under it? In this bet, the winner of the game is irrelevant as long as the bettor’s over / under bet wins.
An NBA telecast that makes this the primary focus of the game would likely focus on the strategies of the opposing coaches. If one coach plays a slowdown game on both offense and defense to prevent a high scoring team like the Warriors from running away with the game, it could easily benefit “under” bettors and anger “over” bettors. Similarly, the likely increase in scoring irrelevant to the game’s outcome during garbage time would play into the hands of “over” bettors and anger “under” bettors.
Any number of statistical outcomes may result in the coach’s decisions coming into question. If a player is close to a triple double but his team is far ahead, if the coach takes said player out of the game, all bettors who had bet on him to record a triple double would be angry. If that happens at home, the coach could find himself being booed by hometown fans even though he has led the team to a lopsided victory.
The same goes for all NBA statistics. Toward the end of the season, when some records seem within striking distance of the team or individual players, the coach’s decision to play that player less in preparation for the long playoffs might also elicit harsh criticism.
Business Showing True Business Colors
Some NBA teams are salivating in anticipation of getting a piece of the sports betting pie assuming the Supreme Court gives the green light and assuming those states that set up sites to allow regulated sports betting agree to a form of revenue sharing with the NBA.
The league is proposing a 1% rebate for every bet. The problems here are twofold. First, the states that allow sports betting have no real incentive to share the wealth with the NBA and second every other sports league or organization will also want its 1%. Adding up all the leagues involved plus associations such as the Professional Golfers Association, Bowlers Association, Tennis Association, and many more could easily result in cumulative requests for over 10% of each bet.
States that allow sports betting in their jurisdiction will likely see that large percentage as taking away from anticipated tax revenues.
NBA Accepts Sponsorship from Casinos
The NBA has already accepted the undeniable fact that betting in general in the United States is a growth industry. Many teams accept ads and other forms of sponsorship from gambling interests primarily casinos.
League Wants to Influence Lawmakers
Amy Brooks, a league official with a very long title: chief innovation officer and president of team marketing and business operations, sees impending sports betting as falling in her bailiwick. She spoke at the All Star Weekend about the need for each state that allows sports betting, again only if the Supreme Court greases the path, to insure that, “the right laws are passed to insure transparency and integrity.”
This type of league lobbying and oversight is necessary because if the Supreme Court voids PASPA, sports betting in the other 46 states would still not be legal until the states each passed its own sports betting law. It would clearly be in the interest of all involved, from leagues to associations to individual performers, to see that transparency and integrity were written in stone else the entire sports edifice might come tumbling down.
The possibility of a quick loss of fans in any sports league or association was seen last season as the NFL suffered massive decreases in attendance and television viewership mostly deriving from what many saw as disrespect for the flag, country, and the military in the rampant “taking a knee” or other activity during the presentation of the flag and the singing of the national anthem before games.
So, leagues have a very immediate interest in maintaining transparency and integrity even as both are challenged by widespread betting on sports games and contests.