There is a curious dichotomy unfolding in gambling markets around the globe, leading one NBA executive to express a desire for caution.
Earlier this month, the NHL’s Washington Capitals became the first US pro team to put a gambling sponsorship on a jersey. But on the other side of the pond, the UK is going the opposite way. The UK government is soon expected to ban betting sponsors on soccer shirts.
UK politician Carolyn Harris told newspapers:
“Banning front-of-shirt ads is of course the right thing to do, but it just scratches the surface. We’re bombarded by gambling adverts and that has to stop. Adverts should be completely banned to protect children and prevent harm.”
A warning for US sports betting?
To some, the UK experience is a harbinger of things to come in the US: an example of the backlash when sports betting becomes too prevalent.
But are US sports betting stakeholders paying attention?
That was the question asked last week of Scott Kaufman-Ross, SVP and head of gaming at the NBA.
Lessons from Europe
Specifically, Kaufman-Ross was asked on a SportTechie webinar whether leagues were heeding the lessons from Europe as they built out their sports betting strategies.
“Whilst there are things that might be legal or fans may want, we have to be careful not to go too, far too fast and risk the overregulation we have seen in other markets.”
“A healthy, legal sports betting industry is what we all want and we have to be prudent.”
Baby steps for NBA gambling
For the NBA, that means not yet allowing betting sponsorships on jerseys, as the NHL did.
“We’re monitoring all that stuff [in Europe],” Kauffman-Ross added. “We didn’t think it was the right time for us to open up [jersey sponsorship].”
“Some leagues are more permissive and we don’t judge anyone. We didn’t feel it right for the NBA and we’ll see where it goes. We want to crawl before we walk, before we run.”
NBA gambling stance is evolving
It is a subtle but interesting shift given the NBA was the first league to embrace sports betting way back in 2014. Commissioner Adam Silver famously penned an op-ed for the New York Times arguing sports betting should be taxed and regulated.
Now the NBA might be a little more cautious than its peers, especially as the NFL goes all-in on sports betting with its official partnerships.
Following those agreements, US sportsbooks spent $24 million on NFL TV ads during Week One alone.
The growing saturation of sports betting has also prompted warnings from other parts of the industry.
Regulators from New Jersey and Colorado said recently that operators needed to rein in marketing or risk a regulatory crackdown.
They too highlighted Europe as a cautionary tale. The warnings, it seems, are building up.
But is enough of the industry listening?