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What does the growth of the NBA betting industry mean for our game?


For decades Americans have been forced to watch on with envious eyes as many other countries enjoy their legal sports betting landscapes. The cogs of change in the United States began to whir in 2018 when the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting.

Since then there has been a slow but steady stream of states taking the individual decision to legalize sports betting. Wagering on NFL, NBA and MLB is now legal in more than half a dozen American states and pending in many more.

In this article, we look at why NBA betting has grown and has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of legalization and speculate as to what that means for the future of basketball.

Why has NBA Betting Proved so Popular?

There is a myriad of reasons why basketball has proved to be so popular with bettors, but the Holy Trinity is:

-Popularity: Basketball is not just one of the most popular sports in America, but it is also one of the most popular sports globally, but that's not the main reason for the sport's betting popularity. After all, NFL is viewed and followed by a great many more Americans.

-Predictability: There is no such thing as a 'sure bet' unless, of course, you are talking about NBA, the league in which the best teams tend to win. Unlike many other sports, NBA is relatively easy to predict and is such a popular sports league to bet on.

-Variety: while the outcome of games is relatively easy to predict, there are many other variables that NBA fans can bet on that aren't available in other sports. Bettors can place wagers on outrights, handicaps, individual players' points haul, and much more. 

How Much is Wagered on NBA Games?

You might have been reading through this article and wondering to yourself, 'how do we know that NBA betting is so popular?' If you have let us put your mind at ease with some of the staggering facts behind NBA betting.

Unfortunately, due to the disruption of the pandemic, the figures from 2020-2021 are too unreliable to draw any conclusions from. Instead, we have to look at the industry figures from 2019, which show that:

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  • Physical sports betting stores in Nevada averaged $50 million in NBA wagers each month.
  • An estimated $500 million in offshore wagers were placed on the NBA in 2019.
  • The average annual spend per capita on NBA betting is $111.49.

The main area in which the NBA differs from other sports leagues is betting frequency. Leagues like the NFL see a huge spike in wagers for big post-season games and, of course, the Super Bowl.

Whereas the NBA sees a glut of smaller but more regular wagers during the regular season as punters seek value in a complete fixture list.

How Betting Could Benefit NBA

The dye has been cast, sports betting in the United States is spreading, and there is nothing anyone can do about that. Within the next decade, the vast majority of American states will have fully operational, legal sports betting landscapes.

The only abstentions to that may be traditionally conservative states, but they will find themselves outnumbered. What this means for the future of the NBA is a whole lot more cash and interest. In 2018 the NBA partnered with MGM, making the company the league's official betting partner.

This three-year deal was reported to be in the region of $25 million, which in retrospect was a mere drop in the ocean. Latest industry research suggests that the NBA could see its revenues grow by $585 million due to collective and individual partnerships with sports betting companies.

The league stands to make money from spending from betting operators on advertising, data, and sponsorship. In addition to that, sports betting is expected to increase consumption of the NBA's media and products, which will, in turn, boost the league's and team's profits.

The NBA: The New Premier League?

The English Premier League is the most commercially successful sports league on the planet and is the envy of all others. A global audience of 3.2 billion fans from all across the globe tuned in to watch the culmination of last season's Premier League title race.

The aim then for any ambitious sports league is to replicate the popularity of the Premier League. One way the NBA can do that is by utilizing the sports betting industry. Over half of the clubs in the Premier League have shirt sponsorship deals with sports betting firms.

In addition to that, the league itself has dozens of lucrative sponsorships deals with sports betting firms both in the UK and further afield. If the NBA were to follow this example, the league would not only grow in popularity here in the US, but its global appeal would increase too.

If bettors in Europe, Asia, and Africa were encouraged to wager on the outcome of a Detroit Pistons game, for example, the appeal of the league and individual teams would massively increase. Whatever happens, though, the next decade looks set to be truly exciting for the NBA.

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