Why Basketball is a Rising Star in US Sports Betting

Football has ruled US sports betting in recent history. But basketball betting is rapidly climbing the US sports wagering ladder at an important time.

Looking at each sport’s performance, it’s completely conceivable that basketball surpasses football as the American (regulated) betting game of choice by 2020.

Here’s why:

First, the NBA and college hoops provide a fundamentally great betting product–lots of inventory, a global (betting) audience, and games have an optimal format for in-play betting.

Second, the NBA and NCAA have built powerful betting brands, and avoided many of the trips and traps that other leagues (notably, the NFL) have stumbled on.

The NBA Finals dominate sports media every June, and has located the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas since 2004.
NBA Summer League in Vegas

The NCAA has basically appropriated the month of March with their implicit support of office pools and bracket madness. The NCAA Basketball Tournament drove an all-time record handle for legal sports books last March.

NCAA Basketball Betting

Third, the NBA has been at the front of the conversation on regulated sports betting in the US.

While many observers disagree with their approach, no one disputes the NBA’s leadership role in the US sports betting conversation.

Recent NBA + sports betting highlights in pictures:

2014: New commissioner Adam Silver pens an Op-ed piece on sports betting in the NY Times during his first year on the job.
Adam Silver on Basketball Betting

2016: About face: After years of opposition, former NBA commissioner David Stern takes the stage with AGA President Geoff Freeman at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) industry conference in September. In the keynote, they discussed global basketball betting and a path forward for regulated sports betting in the US.
G2E 2016: David Stern and Geoff Freeman discuss Basketball Betting

2016: Stern addresses the evolving state of the league's stance.
David Stern Basketball Betting


  • In 2017, the NBA actively participated in the first Sports Betting USA Conference in NY.
  • In 2018, the NBA proposed a 1% 'integrity fee' that ruffled a few industry feathers.

OK, so not a perfect path forward, but, give them credit: they've been in the mix.

Three Trends Favoring Basketball Betting

The data from the Nevada Gaming Control Board paints a positive picture for basketball betting.

1. Basketball handle is growing rapidly. Even compared to football.
Basketball Betting in the USA Handle

2. Basketball hold surpassed football in 2017, and is trending in the right direction.
Basketball Betting Hold in US

3. Basketball betting margins are comparable to football's.
Basketball betting margins in the US

Also Read

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