Everything has a price. And in the world of commercialised sport, it's no surprise that analysts were right in predicting that any relaxing of US sports betting laws would be wrapped in profiteering deals between sports franchises and gambling firms. The NBA has already performed a flip on its sports betting stance, but now the league is putting more powerful weight behind the legalisation of US sports betting, with plans for a new and highly lucrative concept. But just how much will it cost the betting industry?
The NBA is seemingly now strongly in favour of sports betting on its games – something that has been influenced by the state of New Jersey's legal action in the Supreme Court, which is aiming to abolish a federal law that bans states from authorising sports gambling. The NBA is well aware that if the Supreme Court repeals the law, all 32 US states could conceivably be free to offer gambling within five years. It's therefore no surprise that the organisation is making moves as 2018 gets underway.
Indeed, the NBA recently made a formal request for legislation that would legalise wagering on professional sports leagues across the US. NBA attorney Dan Spillane revealed that the proposal does have a catch, however, with the NBA using its power for a potential slam dunk of a gain. The brand has demanded one percent of every bet placed on games in the franchise, allowing it to tap into a multibillion dollar niche. The formal proposition was made to a New York Senate committee. It seems the NBA is also rooting for other sports leagues across America, with its concept not exclusively tailored to basketball.
The NBA's progressive stance on sports gambling has also seen the organisation call for increased betting options for today’s fans. Under the NBA's vision, bettors in the US will be able to place legalised wagers via smartphones, kiosks and touchscreens at casinos, racetracks and sporting arenas. The plans are projected to be an exciting way to increase the league's revenue, while concurrently boosting fan satisfaction. In his statement, Spillane noted:
"We have studied these issues at length. Our conclusion is that the time has come for a different approach that gives sports fans a safe and legal way to wager on sporting events while protecting the integrity of the underlying competitions."
With confidence high around the Supreme Court's verdict over the New Jersey sports betting case, the US gambling industry is looking a bit like the gold rush of yesteryear.
Organisations such as the NBA are salivating over revenue figures for sports betting – such as Nevada's estimated $5 billion revenue in 2017. At the current time, a large chunk of the revenue come from bets on horse races and boxing, but changes to the laws across the US would create a much bigger total revenue and sports spread. Even one percent of the NBA bets struck in Nevada last year would be a lucrative coup for the brand.
Ironically, the NBA, along with the NFL, MLB, NHL and NCAA, have spent huge sums of money trying to fight any moves to legalise sports betting on their leagues. But now it seems times are changing, as commercialisation and calls for liberty aim to bring down the house of cards and give the money men and fans what they truly desire.
Before its latest move, the NBA had already changed its stance from one of opposition to support for sports betting. If the likes of the NFL and NCAA follow suit, a revolution could be seen over the next couple of years. Indeed, Spillane suggested as much when commenting on some of the major states lobbying for gambling changes and the need for the NBA to make its own move:
"States like New York and others have reacted by moving forward to discuss and advance new laws that could immediately thereafter permit legal sports betting. We cannot sit on the sidelines while this activity is occurring."
Spillane also revealed plans to push on with the sports betting concept, even if the Supreme Court rejects New Jersey. There is opposition from the authorities over the rights of the NBA to suddenly switch sides to take advantage of changes in the betting landscape. Most strikingly, the American Gaming Association has publicised its opposition to the NBA's one percent demand, revealing that the organisation welcomes the league's support of regulated sports betting, but is against the concept of the NBA milking a percentage of profits to multibillion bodies.
Unsurprisingly, the NBA's defence has been quick to react, claiming that:
“Sports leagues provide the foundation for sports betting while bearing the risks it imposes, even when regulated. If sports betting is legalised federally or state by state, we will need to invest more in compliance and enforcement and believe it is reasonable for operators to pay each league one percent of the total amount bet on its games to help compensate for the risk and expense created and the commercial value our product provides them. This is a similar approach to legally regulated sports betting in other international jurisdictions."
The NBA makes a valid point about the concept of taking a percentage of profits from sports betting working in other countries (such as Australia and France). Furthermore, the NBA claim it is not demanding an 'integrity fee' to boost profits, but to enable real-time bet analysis, anti-fraud and player protection. Spillane is also adamant that the NBA wishes to maintain the game's integrity by limiting bets easily open to fraud – such as betting on the game's first fouler.
The NBA has moved fast in 2018 to try and secure its position in the fast-changing US sports betting industry – and it's likely to be the first move of many for sports leagues across the country.
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