NBA League Pass to offer betting odds in app, option to place wagers

The Athletic
NBA League Pass to offer betting odds in app, option to place wagers

The NBA is infusing betting into live games on NBA League Pass. The league and Sportradar, a global data company, are rolling out a new option for League Pass viewers to be able to track betting odds on NBA games as they watch them on the app and then offer the ability to click through to wager through the NBA’s betting partners.

Sportradar will use emBet, its OTT technology, to show certain betting lines on-screen during the game streams, though the options will be limited to point spreads, money lines, and over/unders for now. Viewers will then be able to pick their bet and be taken to sportsbooks from FanDuel or DraftKings. This option to see odds during the games will be available in every state but the ability to place a bet will only be allowed in states where mobile sports gambling is already legal.

The new betting integration will be an opt-in function — it’ll pop up once a League Pass viewer chooses the odds overlay for the game — and will only be available right now on mobile, though a league executive said that there are designs to add it to the streams on desktop and smart TVs as well.

Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA’s Executive Vice President of media and gaming, said he believes this is the first-of-its-kind in-app betting option from a U.S. pro sports league.

This marks another step for the NBA as it continues to bring sports gambling closer to the sport. This could also lead the way to offering live in-game microbetting. While that sort of sports betting takes up a fraction of the American betting market, it makes up a larger share of sports betting in the United Kingdom. Sportradar senior VP Patrick Mostboeck said he thinks this will make “in-play betting more engaging and immersive.”

While there will be just three kinds of bets at launch, new ones may be rolled out eventually, and Kaufman-Ross believes basketball is well-suited for in-game betting.

The NBA has been working with nVenue, an analytics firm, to try to innovate ways of microbetting on the sport. The NBA took an equity stake in nVenue after it participated in its Launchpad program and Kaufman-Ross is a board observer for it, the company announced in December. The company debuted new in-game betting markets this season, like allowing people to bet on the first team to 15 points and betting on which player is next to score seven points, among others.

Asked whether this could eventually lead to in-game microbetting through League Pass, Kaufman-Ross left the door open.

“It may,” he said.

This could also put the NBA one notch closer to offering in-game betting right on its league-run platforms and allow viewers to do it without leaving the app. But Kaufman-Ross said that’s not happening soon.

“It’s something to consider for the future,” he said. “But it’s not on the near-term roadmap. We think this is a really good first step. And we’ll continue to develop new features as we learn more about it, but that’s not something we’re looking at right now.”

Sportradar has access to the player tracking data captured by Hawk-Eye around all 29 NBA arenas and distributes the official NBA data. The NBA owns a three percent stake in the company.

“We think this experience can serve as a model for other media platforms,” Kaufman-Ross said. “Imagine that this is something that we can take to our partners and that others may look to replicate as well. We think we built a really engaging experience here. We’re excited to see how it can grow.”