For better or worse, we are in a massive period of change in the American sports world. The introduction of legal and licensed online sports betting on a state basis since the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban in 2018 has sparked an explosion in the online betting industry.
According to a recent SportsbooksOnline.com survey, more Americans are legally betting on sports than ever before. Advertising is absolutely inevitable on NBA broadcasts and contributes to even more revenue for the league and teams.
It’s fair to say that this trend has fundamentally changed the league and the way we viewers consume the product, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
An important source of income
The NBA has adapted quickly in this regard to the changing landscape of the sports world under Adam Silver’s regime. Silver was a proponent of legal sports betting before it was legalized and was unafraid to embrace the trend league-wide.
Why did the league jump on the bandwagon so quickly? money of course. In this area, a lot of money can be earned for individual teams and the entire league.
The American Gaming Association (a betting lobbying firm) estimated in 2018 that the NBA would increase revenue by nearly $600 million per year if betting were legalized. Given the amount of advertising you’ll see for sports betting on any given NBA show, this number appears to have been a conservative estimate.
This all means the bets are here to stay, and it’s hard to imagine the NBA taking its foot off the pedal anytime soon.
This has fundamentally changed the way the league works and how the product is presented to consumers. It’s like fantasy sports in the sense that it’s a new side game that adds more interest to the games. But at the same time, it’s also the gamble that unleashes a whole different can of worms.
Although the teams generate a lot of revenue, many are concerned that rampant promotion of these products could have a negative impact on the general public, especially young fans.
The new newsbreakers?
For NBA junkies, the draft is one of the highlights of the calendar year. They’ve barely a week to catch their breath after the NBA Finals, and the draft officially heralds the start of the NBA summer, which is filled with drama, trades and photoshops from every player in the league in a Lakers jersey .
This year, the NBA draft had a wild subplot in the days leading up to the big day. For weeks, it looked like Auburn’s Jabari Smith would be a first-place attacker for the Orlando Magic. Chet Holgrem was set to finish second behind the Thunder and it seemed like Paolo Banchero would drop to the Rockets in 3rd place. NBA insiders like Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania had made it seem like all Adam Silver had to do was step onto the podium and announce the selection.
Scroll to Next
But then something interesting happened. About two days before the draft, the odds of who the Orlando Magic would pick with the #1 pick overall began to shift drastically. Big bookmakers like Caesars Sportsbook and PointsBet made Paolo Banchero seem like a distant third option to the odds favorite overnight. Up until minutes before the draft began, major NBA reporters were adamant the top 3 would go as planned: Smith-Holgrem-Banchero.
Lo and behold, Vegas hit the spot with this one. Banchero was the overall winner and Caesars grabbed Woj.
While this might seem like a fun subplot, it’s fair to ask what this means for the future of the sport. A drastic shift in a major event like this is borderline unprecedented without solid public reporting to back things up. But here it seems the odds makers are breaking the news right under our noses.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out and if bookmakers become the de facto news sources like they were in this year’s draft.
Too close for comfort?
On March 9, NBA superstar Kevin Durant responded to an angry heckler on Twitter, saying: “If the parlays don’t score. This is years of slander from NBA fans; I am grateful that I have so much strength now.” Durant’s tweet was obviously a joke, but it raises an interesting point.
One of the old anti-betting arguments was the idea that players, coaches and other staff would get too involved and then the integrity of the game would be called into question. From the Black Sox scandal to Tim Donaghy, there’s reason to be cautious when huge sums of money are at stake.
Just this offseason, the NFL suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for the entirety of the upcoming season after discovering he had bet on his team while he was injured. Again, no foul play is known of, but it probably won’t be the last we’ll see something like this.
Ideally, the legal structure in which the industry now operates should rule out any wrongdoing, but in the age of social media, our connection with athletes makes this area even more of a potential slippery slope.
how much is too much
It really cannot be overstated how much of a culture shock it is now to see how much gambling related advertising is pervasive on NBA broadcasts. If you traveled in a time machine 10 years ago, it would be shocking to see the radical change that has taken place.
Many NBA teams have on-field gaming sponsors, while broadcasts have their own affiliates who are actively promoted during the game.
A few years ago, gambling regulators in the UK (where it has long been an integral part of sporting culture) sought to stem the impact of problem gambling by banning any form of sports betting advertising during the broadcast of Premier League matches in the UK . More recently, the Premier League has attempted to ban shirt sponsorship by gambling companies.
We are still in the growth phase of sports betting in the US with many more growth issues to come. It’s possible that in a few years we’ll be at a point where the promotion of these companies needs to be curbed a little more, like it was across the pond.
Whether you’re for it or against it, there’s no denying the profound impact the rise of online sports betting has had on the NBA. For now, it looks like this trend will only increase in the years to come, so we’d all better get used to it.