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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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NBA Players Are Worried About Betting. The League Is Making It Easier Than Ever

  • Odds will be limited to over/under, money lines, and point spreads at first.
  • The NBA is believed to be the first U.S. pro sports league to bring this into its in-house apps.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Last week the NBA fined Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert $100,000 for making the universal “money sign” at a referee, implying that the official who whistled him for a foul was corrupted by sports gambling. 

On Tuesday, the NBA announced it will be slightly easier for fans to place live bets on games. 

League Pass will now have the option for fans to wager on games in real time, the league said in a statement it issued with Sportradar, a global data company. Together, they are rolling out a new function in the app that allows viewers to track betting odds in-game and bet on them through the NBA’s sports gambling partners. The option is currently available only on mobile, but The Athletic reported there are designs to bring it to other devices as an opt-in function. 

At a time when players are airing their frustrations on how the rise of sports gambling has impacted the NBA, the league is enabling more of it.

Options will be limited to point spreads, money lines, and over/under for now. Viewers will then pick their bet and be taken to a sportsbook from FanDuel or DraftKings. The ability to see the bets will be available in every state, but viewers can bet in states only where mobile sports gambling is legal, according to The Athletic

Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA’s executive vice president of media and gaming, told The Athletic he believes this is the first in-app betting option from a U.S. pro sports league. 

The league is embracing gambling more tightly than ever, at the precise moment when players—with no evidence yet—are raising the alarm about it affecting the game.

“I think it’s hurting our game,” Gobert said the night of his ejection. “I know the betting and all that is becoming bigger and bigger, but it shouldn’t feel that way.”

Gobert isn’t the only noteworthy player to weigh in on the effects of gambling. It’s impacted fan interactions as who wins and loses has taken a backseat to fan parlays. Suns forward Kevin Durant, who is never shy when it comes to his opinions with fans, tweeted in November, “When I get ya paid, u don’t DM me and send a small percentage to my CashApp but when them parlays don’t hit, I’m every name in the book. Y’all ain’t real.”

Kings forward Malik Monk and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson have also tweeted their distaste for fans complaining about their parlays in recent months. Longtime Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently sold a majority stake in the team to the Adelson family, who operate Sands Casinos and want to bring sports gambling to Texas. 

Kaufman-Ross didn’t rule out the possible addition of more betting options coming to League Pass, which could be microbets such as player or team-specific bets. Microbetting has a small share of the U.S. betting market but accounts for a larger share in Europe, especially the United Kingdom. In the joint release, Patrick Mostboeck, Sportradar senior vice president of audiovisual, said the new League Pass features make “in-play betting more engaging and immersive.” 

The ref who called Gobert for a sixth foul almost certainly wasn’t rigging the game, and Gobert was contrite after his ejection, calling his gesture “immature.” But the more gambling becomes intertwined with the league, the more Gobert’s concerns could seem warranted.

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