In November of 2014, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver penned a noteworthy Op-Ed piece in the New York Times calling for the adoption of consistent, uniform, federal regulations that would legalize sports gambling. The position advocated in the Op-Ed was noteworthy because, historically, the NBA has been at the forefront in challenging attempts by various states to circumvent the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibits the legalization of sports betting.
It appears that the Op-Ed marked more than a rhetorical shift away from the NBA’s long-held opposition to sports betting. According to published reports, the NBA is currently exploring partnerships with multiple sports betting companies that operate in overseas markets where sports betting is legal – including European markets.
Will the NBA Fully Embrace Sports Betting?
Is the NBA Looking to Crossover on Sports Betting and Fantasy Sports?
The details of the potential deal between the NBA and a leading sports betting company that have thus far leaked to the press indicate more than just a passive acceptance of sports betting. In fact, if initial reports prove to be accurate, the NBA appears poised to become an active participant in the promotion of the various gaming offerings:
“The agreement is projected to be finalized later this summer for the start of next season as a multiyear, multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. It would include cross-platform branding on the NBA’s European broadcasts and the sports betting company’s sportsbooks. For example, the NBA and sports betting company would be able to have logo placement on each other’s television, media and other promotional properties.”
As previously discussed on this blog, the NBA entered into a direct partnership with FanDuel, the industry’s leading provider of daily fantasy sports games. As reported, it appears that the NBA is currently utilizing its mobile platforms and fantasy sports partnerships to lay the groundwork for a consumer base, and related technology infrastructure, should sports betting eventually become legal in more than just a handful of states. The Sacramento Kings have gone as far as to offer rewards points to users of their mobile application in connection with fantasy sports games. Further, FanDuel itself has relationships with one of the sports gambling entities rumored to be in discussions with the NBA.
While the NBA does support the adoption of a federal framework for legalization of sports gambling, and it is exploring partnerships with foreign companies operating in overseas markets where sports gambling is legal, sports gambling remains illegal in all but a small number of states. However, there is an increasing acceptance of sports betting by leading professional sports officials such as Silver, and Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. This increasing openness is occurring at a time when all four leagues are also entering partnerships with and/or openly promoting venues that offer fantasy sports games played for money. These developments, proceeding in tandem, could be the precursor to a major paradigm shift in US gaming law.
The ongoing evolution of support for legalized sports betting, and fantasy sports venues, from officials in charge of the major professional sports leagues warrants continued attention from gaming attorneys, and those interested in fantasy sports and/or sports betting in general.