A pick ‘em contest on the National Basketball Association website offering a $1 million prize for correctly picking the final over/under win totals of all 30 teams is the league’s first subtle mainstream acknowledgement of its acceptance of legalized sports betting.
See it as the NBA and MGM Resorts holding hands in public.
Although the NBA continues to assert its right with Major League Baseball, the National Football League and National Hockey League to so-called integrity fees as compensation for intellectual property and costs its officials contend would be needed to offset possible corruption, it has been proactive in embracing the onset of more legalized sports betting nationally. On July 31, the NBA announced it had signed MGM Resorts as the official gaming partner of it and the WNBA.
The pick ‘em game is simple, but certainly not easy. The projected win total of each team is displayed – the Atlanta Hawks are at 26.5 - and a “plus” or “minus” button allows fans to register their calculation whether the team will surpass or fall short of the mark.
Fans must register an account with the website to be eligible. Predictions lock at 8 p.m. EST on Oct. 16.
The game is free. Official rules emphasize that its a “non-gambling promotion” offered for “entertainment purposes only,” but the format connotes a gambling experience. MGM Resorts’ logo is prominent in the upper right corner of the page and links through to the company’s main site. MGM offers sports betting in Nevada and New Jersey, with multiple wagering options available.
In a release announcing the multi-year pact with MGM, NBA commissioner Adam Silver (above) said in July: “As the landscape for sports betting in the U.S. continues to evolve at a rapid pace, MGM Resorts is a proven gaming leader for us to work with on this groundbreaking partnership. Our 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.”
According to the release, MGM Resorts will also “partner on best-in-class practices to protect the integrity of NBA and WNBA games, including anonymized real-time data sharing.”
In other signs of acceptance in the league, the Dallas Mavericks this week hired prolific gambler and data analytics dynamo Bob Voulgaris as director of quantitative research and development.
According to ESPN.com,Voulgaris funded his legendary wagering career by hitting his first big winner in 2000, betting roughly $80,000 on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA title at 6.5-to-1 odds. He later dissected the techniques of NBA coaches Eddie Jordan, Jerry Sloan and Byron Scott to is betting advantage and exploited first-and second-half lines deficiencies by oddsmakers.
ESPN reports that “in part, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is expected to utilize Voulgaris as a strategic thinker who will help examine on-court strategy in big-picture ways.”
Wizards own Ted Leonsis has professed his vision of legalized sports betting as another facet of in-game entertainment at Capital One Arena vociferously since May, when the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that had kept the practice legal only in Nevada.
An expected legalization of sports betting in the District of Columbia by next year would allow him to enact that vision.