Monetizing the legalization of sports betting is a hot topic among owners of North American professional sports franchises and several NBA teams are positioning themselves to be at the forefront of the movement.
The Wizards and Kings are among the teams looking to educate potential bettors in preparation for when legalized betting arrives in their respective areas, as ESPN passes along.
“I think this is the most important new business for us,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said while stressing the importance of making sure new bettors are not confused when placing wagers.
The Kings are allowing fans to “Call the Shot,” something that gives fans the ability to predict outcomes like the score of a quarter or the statistics of a certain player. The team is adding a lounge for premium seat holders where fans can go to and use iPads to make “bets” before returning to their seats to watch the events unfold. The Kings are calling the experience “predictive gaming.” which is expected to be available for four select games in March.
“The arena is the game console,” Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive said. “And your phone is the controller for the game console. So we’re only limited by our imagination.”
There currently is no monetary value to the “bets,” as fans can play for free and will get virtual credits for winning. Sports betting is not currently legal in California but the Kings will have the infrastructure in place should wagering become legal.
“We’d have all the infrastructure in place,” Ranadive said. “We’d have the fan base that’s already educated. We’d have the ability to execute and all of that. So we think that we would be able to flip the switch very quickly and move.”
Washington D.C. is closer to legalized sports betting than California, as a bill that would allow sports betting inside of professional sports franchise stadiums and arenas is expected to be passed before the end of the NBA season. The Wizards are among the franchises in the district that are expected to build a Las Vegas-style sportsbook inside its stadium, according to the Washington Post.
Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are expected to be permitted inside of Audi Field (D.C. United of the MLS), Capital One Arena (Wizards, NHL’s Capitals), St Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena (WNBA’s Mystics and Wizards’ G League affiliate GoGo), and National Park (Nationals of the MLB).
The Wizards have been progressive about getting their fans familiar with real-time betting. The team scheduled live, alternate sports betting broadcast for seven games this season where potential bettors can view what a version of live betting will look like while they watch the Wizards play.
“Right now, the people who go to casinos to gamble, it’s a small community and it generates $8-10 billion a year in revenues and play,” Leonsis said. “But there’s probably $100 billion that’s in the shadows by really sophisticated gamblers. And obviously, the first step is we want to get that audience that’s gaming illegally to come into the sunlight.”
Shifting experienced bettors away from the illegal market remains a challenge. CEO Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association believes it’s going to take a partnership between the leagues and betting operators to ensure that illegal bookmakers are put out of business, as I passed along previously in a piece for CNBC.
Eight states (DE, MS, NJ, NM, NV, PA, RI, WV) currently allow for sports wagering, though the impact on the illegal market hasn’t been drastic. “It’s not as if the bookies are out today shopping for new careers,” Joe Asher, CEO of the Britain-based sports betting operator William Hill, said after the landmark Supreme Court decision which made sports betting a reality in many states.
Pennsylvania is the only state with an NBA team that currently has legalized sports betting in place. However, there is no mobile betting available yet, so Philadelphians cannot place legal bets from inside the Wells Fargo Arena as they watch the Sixers play.