The NBA Finals represent a missed opportunity for sportsbooks — which came close to a dream matchup of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
While Gambling.com Group vice president Max Bichsel estimates that several hundred million dollars will be wagered on the Miami Heat-Denver Nuggets series across regulated U.S. markets, he told Front Office Sports that the handle will likely be about half of a Lakers-Celtics series.
That doesn’t mean it’s trouble in paradise, though. “There’s a lot of futures action on the Lakers … so the sportsbooks should be doing well,” Bichsel said.
The Nuggets are the second-biggest favorites (-450) in the NBA finals in the last 16 years, outside the 2018 Golden State Warriors, who swept the Cleveland Cavaliers as -1075 favorites. Sportsbooks in different markets may be rooting for a predictable finals and others for one of the biggest upsets in league history, according to Bichsel.
Florida doesn’t have legalized sports betting, but operators in Colorado — where it is allowed — may be flooded with Nuggets bets and actually prefer a Heat win. Others could be hurt by having to pay out to bettors who wagered on the Heat at +340.
One positive of a series in Colorado is the opportunity for sportsbooks to reach new clientele thanks to the hype of Denver’s first NBA Finals appearance.
“This is a chance for operators to acquire new customers in recreational customers that may not be avid sports bettors,” Bichsel said. “They may be novice [bettors], new to the industry.”