It’s crystal clear by now that the NBA is all-in on sports betting — encouraging it, promoting it through partners and its own website, monetizing it through new partnerships and licensing agreements.
The NBA also sent a wagering-focused survey this week to at least a segment of NBA newsletter subscribers and/or persons entered into the NBA’s official Pick ‘Em contests presented by BetMGM and FanDuel.
The survey asks respondents various questions about betting habits, how much and how often they bet, where they place bets (FanDuel, BetMGM, MyBookie and 5Dimes are among the choices), and most interesting, about the possible integration of bets from regulated sportsbooks into NBA League Pass and even “the ability to place bets directly via NBA League Pass.”
Below are some of the questions that piqued our interest, with some speculation about what it may mean about the NBA’s thinking.
NBA sports betting survey reveals what’s ahead
A couple nuts-and-bolts before we begin: the survey was produced on behalf of the NBA by a third party that appears to be the National Research Group, Inc. The e-mail asking for participation in the survey reads, “Today we have an important survey for you to complete about fantasy sports, gambling, and NBA Pick ‘Em. It should take 10-15 minutes to complete.” It begins with demographic questions such as age, sex, ethnicity and whether the respondent has children.
Potential New Features
Most interesting here are the second and third potential features. Importing bets into League Pass from a regulated online sportsbook, which we presume would be “authorized gaming operators,” and then placing bets directly via NBA League Pass. Whether the placement of bets directly via League Pass would currently be permitted in any jurisdiction, we don’t know.
It also appears the league is thinking of offering some kind of betting wallet, with “funds” perhaps redeemable for prizes. They’re also measuring interest in that, versus gambling for real money.
Advanced NBA stats betting
These are some of the “microtransactions” or in-game wagering prop-betting options that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has referenced in conversations about sports gambling. This kind of in-game wager is usually a higher vig offering.
This question also contemplates the usage of advanced, proprietary stats/metrics, which “authorized” sports operators (including MGM and recently William Hill) probably will have at their disposal.
The NBA and MLB have argued in favor of state-mandated requirements for the usage of “official league data” in connection with sports betting, hinging the argument on the imperative of getting numbers directly from the league. The risk of “non-official” data, they say, is a loss of confidence in its games. But this presupposes that a bookmaker wants to allow bettors to wager on a player’s average speed. It’s a silly argument but nevertheless you can see here they’re gauging interest in this kind of betting option. Simultaneously, the NBA and MLB have professed that this kind of specific stat that could be singularly controlled by one player creates the greatest risk to their games.
State lottery integration
Some jurisdictions such as Delaware, Montana, Oregon and Washington D.C. empower the state lottery with regulatory control over sports betting, restricting wagering to Lottery-run products, rather than commercial sportsbooks.
In any case, to our knowledge, the NBA has yet to partner directly with a state lottery for any game with NBA branding. But it would like to know if fans would have interest in lottery based offerings (also asked was if respondents played the lottery) and if so, if that relationship would tarnish the league’s reputation.
Various other questions
Among the other questions, the survey touches on “Where do you play?” listing a mixture of popular offshore sportsbooks operating legally, and regulated U.S. sportsbooks. In states without legal sports betting, there’s only one choice.
This is a really good and interesting question (below) where I’m very interested in the responses. At least the NBA should share the answers with its sports betting partners:
How much and how often do you bet?
Some of these we know the answer to already: Yes, people will spend more time watching games they have bet on.
The survey also asked about what statistics respondents consider when making wagers, how long before games they put down a bet, general betting IQ (how well do you understand parlays and prop bets, for example).
This survey indicates the NBA will be exiting the sports betting perimeter and driving the lane.