Gambling and the NBA, a high stakes game of risk and reward

Lea Hogg 1 month ago
Gambling and the NBA, a high stakes game of risk and reward

The NBA’s relationship with gambling is causing concern among players and fans. The legalization of sports betting in most US states has led to the NBA embracing this change, turning a once taboo topic into a significant revenue source. ESPN’s financial expert, Bobby Marks, stated that the NBA is projected to receive $167 million in revenue from casinos and betting, an 11 percent increase from last season.

ESPN has integrated sports betting into its platform with the launch of ESPNBET, its own sportsbook, in November 2023. This integration has driven new business in sports, but it has also led to frustrations among NBA fans due to in-game reviews, challenges, and lengthy replays. The NBA, which lost substantial money during the pandemic, sees gambling as a potential cash influx and has two official betting partners.

Impact on players and fans

However, the league’s promotion of responsible gambling is questioned as there are approximately three million problem gamblers in the US. The National Council on Problem Gambling reported a 30 percent increase in the risk of gambling addiction in the general population between 2018 and 2021. The prevalence of betting ads on NBA broadcasts is unlikely to help this situation.

Former NBA star Rex Chapman shared his struggle with gambling addiction in his memoir, “It’s Hard for Me to Live with Me”. His story is not uncommon among athletes and non-athletes. The NBA’s alignment with gambling is so pronounced that ads for the gambling company, Bet365, were displayed during a recent game between the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.

The close partnership between the NBA and sportsbooks is seen as dangerous by some within the league. Cleveland Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff reported receiving threats from gamblers, and Indiana Pacers All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton sought professional help for his mental health, stating that he feels like a prop for people to make money on DraftKings.

This situation marks a significant shift from earlier NBA history, before legal gambling became widespread and the league aligned itself so closely with betting.

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