In light of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) last May, a number of states have gone ahead and legalized sports betting. More and more states are expected to follow suit and do the same in the months and years to come.
After initially opposing the expansion of legal sports gambling, most major professional sports leagues in the U.S. have come around on the idea of embracing the burgeoning industry. The NBA has already agreed to a number of deals with gambling entities, such as MGM Resorts International.
However, the NBA is also not willing to take any chances when it comes to potentially compromising the league’s integrity in relation to the growing sports betting industry in the United States.
Last week, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum told ESPN that the league is prepared to introduce a new set of guidelines when it comes to policing league employees, including players, when it comes to potential gambling offenses.
Prior to the New York Knicks’ game against the Washington Wizards in the United Kingdom last week, Tatum said that the league has made efforts to update its personnel regarding the potential advantages and potential problems that may arise with the issue.
The NBA will commit additional resources in an attempt to thwart any potential gambling-related infractions. A number of other sports, including soccer, tennis and cricket, have been plagued by gambling scandals in recent years with sports betting being legal in a number of other countries around the world. Match-fixing has been an issue in all 3 sports. Police in Spain recently arrested 28 pro tennis players that were allegedly involved in a match-fixing ring.
The NBA wants to make sure that similar scandals do not take place in the world of American pro basketball.
The NBA already has rules in place that prohibit its players and all other league employees from fixing, tipping or betting, including the encouragement of others to place bets.
The league is aware that its eagerness to align itself with betting entities could mean the NBA will have to take a more deliberate approach when it comes to policing itself. Tatum said, “A lot of it has to do with education with respect to our players, with respect to our teams. We’re spending a lot of time learning from the mistakes that were made and what we’re seeing in sports betting in places around the world.”
He added, “We’re trying to educate our fans. We’re educating our players and our teams. We’re taking a little bit of a cautious approach here…But generally, we think it’s a good thing for sports betting to be regulated, to be legalized, so there is better information being captured.”
The NBA recently came to an agreement with Switzerland-based company Sportradar to monitor things and to potentially help identify any irregularities and potential violations. The league has also reportedly enlisted the help of the English Premier League, the top soccer division in the United Kingdom.
9 of the 20 clubs currently in the Premier League have betting companies as their primary jersey sponsors, and just about every soccer stadium in the United Kingdom incorporates betting outlets and in-house advertisements for betting entities. Even live betting odds can be seen at various locations around venues during games.
Despite the fact that sports betting has been legal in the U.K. for years, there have been continued calls for the Premier League to better advertise the potential harm of problem gambling. Some in England want the league to admit the potential negative impacts gambling may have on society and the potential for gambling addiction for the general public as well as the athletes themselves.
Tatum says the NBA has been keeping a close eye on how the Premier League navigates these complicated waters.
He added, “That really helped inform some of our thoughts on how sports betting could work in the United States. We’re seeing a large shift now and a change in the landscape of sports betting in the U.S. We’ve gone to school on them. We’ve actually shared a lot of information with them and have a great partnership with them.”
The NBA has been aggressively trying to grow its popularity beyond American borders for decades. Last week’s Knicks-Wizards game was the NBA’s ninth regular season contest to be held in the United Kingdom, but the league is reportedly eyeing some other European venues, as well. Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena and the Bercy Arena in Paris have reportedly been considered as possible venues to host NBA games in the future.
Regarding the possibility of playing games at other locations around Europe, Tatum said, “You look at the 65 European players we have in our league today from 24 different countries throughout Europe. I’d love to say and I would anticipate that there will be games played in Europe, outside the U.K., in the near future.”
Former NBA commissioner David Stern famously toyed with the idea of putting permanent franchises overseas, but that idea has reportedly taken a backseat for now. Stern’s successor, Adam Silver, is more focused on continuing to focus on digital content and having more and more existing franchises playing games across the pond.
However, Tatum did say that the growing number of major European soccer clubs focusing more heavily on their basketball clubs could mean a potential alignment with the NBA sometime in the future.
The deputy commissioner said, “Those are some of the most recognizable brands in the world. And the fact that Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, they have basketball franchises. For us, that is very attractive. That they’re investing in growing the game of basketball is very important.”
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