NBA Wants to Reap the Reward of Legalized Sports Betting, Says Company Exec

Photo Credit: Mike Nelson/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
January 23, 2019

By Michael Teich

The NBA is transparent about its approval of legalized, regulated sports betting ー but the league is also clearly communicating that it wants a fair share of the money wagered on its games.

"It's our view that if state governments are going to be authorizing private entities, in most cases casinos, to generate significant revenue ー billions of dollars of revenue ー off of the NBA competitions, that the NBA participate in some way. Especially when you consider the additional costs and training and enforcement and monitoring, the risk to our brand if anything happens, if there is any kind of scandal," said the NBA's head of fantasy and gaming Scott Kaufman-Ross.

Data will be a key revenue driver for the NBA. The league has already struck deals with The Stars Group and SportsRadar, in addition to sponsorship partnerships with MGM ($MGM) and FanDuel. But the NBA is determined to collect integrity fees, wherein the league would get a small percentage of the total amount of money bet on its games from operators.

“We are distributing the official data of the NBA," Kaufman-Ross said. "Our data is authentic, it's collected in real time so it can be distributed instantaneously." He added that competing services can only offer data that is stolen or copied from the live broadcast.

While he's optimistic about the future of sports betting, Kaufman-Ross acknowledged the industry is in the nascent stages and the NBA will need to be patient until the industry has realized its full potential. So far eight states have legalized sports betting, and many of the larger markets have yet to approve it.

"We have some time before those dollars will become significant, and the states need to pass laws for that to happen," Kaufman-Ross said.

To protect the sport's integrity, Kaufman-Ross said the NBA plans to invest in new technology that will allow it to "monitor suspicious betting patterns much the way the stock exchange does."

He said the NBA will also work to educate players about the rules to head off any bad behavior.

That said, Kaufman-Ross isn't deeply concerned about players manipulating games to influence betting outcomes.

"Our players are well compensated," he said. "We don't think there is go to be the incentive for anyone to do anything like that."

The median salary for NBA 2018-2019 player contracts is $3,526,480, according to BasketballReference.com

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