NBA Players (And Coaches) Are Getting Fed Up With Sports Betting

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Nets coach Jacque Vaughn

NBA players and coaches are complaining about the growing impact of sports betting on their profession in a league that is multiplying its partnerships and increasingly encouraging its fans to bet on games.

The alarm bell was rung by J.B. Bickerstaff on Wednesday night, before Cleveland’s home game against Miami. “There’s no doubt that the line has been crossed. Sports betting adds pressure, it’s a distraction for players, coaches, referees and everyone else involved,” said the Cavs coach, giving his personal example.

“The number of times we have a 10-point lead in a game, and spectators start yelling at me to let the starters go, because they bet on a spread of at least 11 points (…) Some have already gotten my phone, and sent me insane messages about where I live, and my kids.”

Betting directly integrated into League Pass

If the 45-year-old coach was so vindictive on Wednesday night, it’s because the NBA has never encouraged its fans so much to bet on games. The consequence of two partnership contracts signed with DraftKings and FanDuel in 2021 added to the long list of sports betting companies with a tight relationship with the league. 

After allowing the two American giants to pump out all its content (including videos, logos, and official statistics), the NBA has just integrated their betting interface into its League Pass (its streaming platform) this Wednesday, enabling subscribers to bet their money in real-time while games are being broadcast.

As if that weren’t enough, some NBA venues have also opened physical betting offices. Such is the case of Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, which since January 2023 has allowed fans to gamble during Cavaliers games. Capital One Arena, home to the Washington Wizards, had been the first to offer this service in May 2021.

“I’m an accessory”

The all-out democratization of betting is also affecting NBA players. Indiana point guard Tyrese Haliburton confided earlier in the week that he was using a sports psychologist to deal with the pressure. “Not everyone cares how we’re doing. For half the world, I’m just there to make them money on DraftKings or whatever. I’m an accessory,” he said, before adding: “That’s the majority of what I see on my social networks. I think it’s important to talk to someone about it.”

Frenchman Rudy Gobert also raised the subject after Minnesota’s game in Cleveland on March 8. “I think it’s hurting our sport. I know betting is becoming more and more important, but it shouldn’t be like that.” The Wolves center had pushed the envelope too far that evening, believing that the match referees had been corrupted by sports betting. He was fined $100,000 two days later.

Betting is not about to slow down in the NBA (or in American sports in general). In fact, the trend is in the opposite direction, as betting is now legalized in 38 states, in a lucrative market estimated at $11 billion. 

This post is originally from L’Équipe