NBA Moving To Legalize Gambling And Partnering With Leading Companies In The USA
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There was a federal law in place in the United States which blocked gambling on sports. This was enforced across the majority of the states in America and it prevented people from betting on sports including football, basketball, ice hockey, and baseball. Therefore, the option to place bets on competitions including the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB were very restricted in the United States.

However, that all changed in May 2018 when the supreme court ruled 6-3 to remove the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which had been in place since 1992. The act ensured that Nevada was the only state where a person could wager on the result of a single game in any sport.

For those living outside of Nevada, options for sports betting were very limited. That being said, there were and still are other ways to enjoy gambling and sports without having to actually bet on a real sporting event, especially when it comes to basketball. A great example is Basketball Star Slots.

This slots game has been created by Microgaming and was released towards the end of 2015. This 5-reel video slot offers 243 ways to win and features a stunning design with excellent graphics, symbols, animations and crowd effects. You play with the backdrop of a basketball arena with symbols including the coach’s chalkboard, drinks bottles, sneakers, gold medals and basketball players in action. The Basketball Star logo is the wild and you will find over 40 of them on the reels. These can trigger up to 25 free spins.

For fans of the NBA, Basketball Star Slot certainly hits the spot and the theme comes across perfectly but what if you would like to place a bet on a real NBA game?

New Jersey was one of the leading states who was battling to have the 1992 Act struck down having fought for many years to make sports gambling legal. However, the major sports leagues in the United States were initially against the move. The NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB had previously argued that New Jersey’s gambling expansion would hurt the integrity of their games. If there were to be large sums of money placed on the potential outcome of games, this would have a significant impact on the result of those games.

They made their point in the courtroom but outside, the leagues were more open to the suggestion of sports gambling being made legal in the country. The NFL was one of the leading organizations seemingly open to a change in the ruling but once it happened, every professional league in the United States was surely going to get involved.

Going back to 2014 and NBA commissioner Adam Silver seemed willing to accept gambling as part of the National Basketball Association. An article appeared in the New York Times in 2014 in which he advocated for the legalization of sports betting. He said, “In light of these domestic and global trends, the laws on sports betting should be changed.” Before continuing, “Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”

What Silva was actually pushing for was for the NBA to receive 1% of all bets made on NBA games. 1% may seem minimal but if you consider the number of bets which are sure to be placed on NBA games in a single round of fixtures and then multiply this figure throughout the season, you have a huge amount of money.

However, once sports gambling was made legal in the United States, one of the first steps the NBA took was to announce an official gambling partner for the league. This came in July 2018, just two months after the announcement that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was no longer binding. On Tuesday the 31st of July, the NBA announced that MGM Resorts International would be the league’s official gambling partner. This was a historic moment as it was the first time a major sports league in the United States created a partnership with a betting company in this way.

What exactly did the deal mean for both parties? In terms of MGM Resorts International, they would have the right to use official NBA data on its betting platform plus the right to use NBA and WWNBA marks and team logos. The data would not only be used to enhance the gambling experience for wagers but also to detect and prevent fraud and game-fixing. Fraud and game-fixing were the main reasons why some people involved in the NBA were against sports gambling being made legal. So, it was a little surprise to see steps being made to try and avoid any issues resulting in the integrity of NBA games.

Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner who outlined the 1% plan highlighted above, said the league’s “collaboration will result in the best possible gaming and entertainment experience for consumers through the use of accurate, real-time NBA and WNBA data, and our collective efforts to maintain and enhance the integrity of our games.”

Despite MGM Resorts International being announced as the exclusive gambling partner for the NBA, this was mostly for marketing purposes. Therefore, the NBA could make other deals with gambling companies in the future and that’s exactly what has happened.

One of the leading sports bookmakers in the United Kingdom is William Hill. They have a long history when it comes to sports betting in the UK but what many British people do not know is how popular William Hill has become in the United States. As mentioned previously, prior to the abolishment of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, Nevada was the only state in America where it was possible to legally bet on individual sports games. Therefore, in 2012 William Hill expanded to Nevada by purchasing three chains of sportsbooks. This allowed William Hill to control 55% of the sportsbook locations in Nevada and gave them a very strong presence in the United States sports betting market.

That meant that as soon as sports gambling became legal across the United States, William Hill was in a great position to strike up a partnership with the NBA.

On the 2nd of October 2019 a statement on the NBA website read, ‘The National Basketball Association (NBA) and William Hill, one of America’s leading sportsbook operators, today announced a new partnership that will make William Hill a Proud Partner and an Authorized Sports Betting Operator of the NBA in the United States.’

This deal came just over two months after the partnership with MGM Resorts International was announced and showed the NBA was keen to make immediate strides in the sports gambling world. By striking the deal, William Hill had access to official NBA betting data and league marks for both its mobile platform and sportsbooks in the United States. The Association did not end there and in return, the NBA would promote William Hill, with the logo appearing across several of its digital platforms including, the NBA App, and the NBA’s social media such as Facebook for example.

As always, the NBA was keen to point out that both they and William Hill would be working hard to ensure the integrity of individual games and the league as a whole would be protected.

The value to William Hill of having the official NBA data can be seen in their live betting markets. Having access to the NBA’s feed means all the live information displayed at William Hill will not only be accurate but will also be updated efficiently, which is vital for a successful live betting experience.

Fast forward to February 2020 and they are now 11 gambling deals in place involving betting companies and the NBA. The Australian-founded PointsBet is the latest betting company to make a deal with the NBA. They join MGM Resorts International, William Hill, DraftKings, Unibet, Tabcorp, BetEasy, Supermatch and theScore among others to have agreed on an official partnership with the NBA. As with all the other deals, PointsBet will gain access to the official NBA data feed and NBA marks to use on their digital betting platforms.

At the time of writing, the NBA still prohibits teams from agreeing on deals with sports betting companies unless the state in which they reside allows sports betting to take place. The Philadelphia 76ers are a good example and they became the first NBA team to agree on a sponsorship deal in the sports betting industry. They have a partnership with Fox Bet which means the betting company presents sponsorship of radio game broadcasts and the video on the Wells Fargo Center video board heading into the fourth quarter. They can also display Fox Bet signs in the arena and promote the company using the team’s digital and social media.

This is another big step in the future of the NBA and partnerships with sports gambling in the USA. It will be interesting to see how it develops over the next decade with more NBA teams and the league itself sure to take advantage of the relaxing in the sports gambling laws in the United States.

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