In terms of overall interest at legal US sportsbooks, there’s a clear choice behind the NFL. The NBA is a major revenue generator for sportsbooks. The high-scoring league has tons of diehard fans and a regular season that is jam-packed with games. There’s an even bigger spike in interest when the NBA playoffs roll around.
That sets the stage for the NBA Finals, one of the biggest highlights on the yearly sports calendar. The learning curve of betting on pro basketball is not at all difficult to overcome. Here’s our complete look at how to legally and safely bet on the NBA here in the US.
Legal NBA odds: moneylines, spreads and totals
The NBA regular season is filled with games, each of which will bring in plenty of betting action. From the time sportsbooks release the lines right up until tipoff, there will be movement in the numbers in response to where the money is flowing.
The constant shifts on the odds board can be tough to keep up with, but we have a solution. Our live odds feed pulls together the latest data from top books in the industry. You can customize it to see the latest moneyline, spread, and over/under odds.
Legal NBA betting apps
Someof the explosive growth of legal sports betting can be tied directly to its variety of flexible options. You can bet online or in-person in a number of states, and also bet on the go via apps. Here’s what you need to know about top legal apps for betting on the NBA in the US.
The DraftKings Sportsbook app has been well-received overall. The platform is among the best in the industry, filled with features while being easy to use at the same time. For the NBA, top features include a solid list of props for each game and available live betting once the games get underway.
DraftKings is available in the following states: AZ, CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, LA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV & WY
While growing into a titan in the daily fantasy sports industry, FanDuel Sportsbook was known for being user-friendly. It has applied the same tenets to its sportsbook offering. Navigation is smooth, and you can complete functions with ease, from funding your account to placing bets. The same-game parlay feature has been a hit for NBA action.
FanDuel is available in the following states: AZ, CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, LA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV & WY.
BetMGM Sportsbook has been making headway in the sports betting race. The company inked a number of promotional deals and plans to expand into additional states as soon as possible. Its app features a range of markets and bet types. NBA bettors will find that odds and lines stack up well with the competition.
BetMGM is available in the following states: AZ, CO, DC, IL, IN, IA, LA, MI, MS, NJ, NV, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV & WY
PointsBet sports app has grown tremendously in a short period of time. Since its US debut in New Jersey in January 2019, the company expanded to several other states with more on the horizon. One of the hallmarks has been PointsBetting, a feature that alters how much you can win or lose depending on how right or wrong your bet is.
PointsBet is available in the following states: CO, IL, IN, IA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, VA & WV.
A member of the Rush Street Interactive family, BetRivers Sportsbook has gone from a regional player to gaining notice on the national scene. A strong betting platform and solid rewards program has helped with that. NBA bettors will find competitive odds and lines, as well as all of the bet types they want in a simple-to-use platform.
BetRivers is available in the following states: AZ, CO, IL, IN, IA, LA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, VA & WV.
Understanding how bonus offers work
As states go online with legal betting, the sportsbooks able to operate there do all they can to attract users. One of the tools at their disposal is bonus offers. These will vary, but it makes sense to shop around while looking for places to play. Some of the most common sign-up offers include:
- Risk-free bets: This offer lets you make your first bet in a risk-free fashion after making a deposit. The maximum amount will vary, but it can be as high as $1,000. If you lose the bet, you’ll receive a refund for the wager amount in site credits.
- Deposit bonuses: This is an opportunity to have your first deposit matched up to a certain amount. Generally, the sportsbook will match a certain percentage up to a maximum dollar amount.
- Free bets: This option gives you free funds to play with. Amounts will vary, but it can sometimes be up to $50. You must play the free bets through on the site.
Beyond initial sign-up offers, operators will also extend promotional offers to existing users. For example, there may be an odds boost on an NBA bet, or bet insurance offer up to a certain amount if you miss a single leg on a parlay.
State-by-state NBA betting rules
The number of states where you can legally bet on the NBA and other sports has surpassed double digits. In the coming months and years, the list will grow even longer. Here’s the current list of where you can safely play.
|Where you can Legally Bet||Launch Date||Legal Age|
|Colorado Sportsbooks||May 2020||21|
|Illinois Sportsbooks||June 2020||21|
|Indiana Sportsbooks||October 2019||21|
|Iowa Sportsbooks||August 2019||21|
|Michigan Sportsbooks||January 2021||21|
|New Hampshire Sportsbooks||December 2019||18|
|New Jersey Sportsbooks||August 2018||21|
|Oregon Sportsbooks||October 2019||21|
|Pennsylvania Sportsbooks||May 2019||21|
|Rhode Island Sportsbooks||September 2019||18|
|Tennessee Sportsbooks||November 2020||21|
|Virginia Sportsbooks||January 2021||21|
|Washington DC Sportsbooks||June 2020||18|
|West Virginia Sportsbooks||August 2019||21|
Individual states set their own rules, but many regulations are common across the industry. Those with close associations to teams and leagues are generally prohibited from betting on their own sports, for example.
NBA game lines explained
For each game on the NBA docket, you’ll find odds and lines at legal sportsbooks. If you click on the NBA or basketball tab, the main betting lobby will be populated with upcoming games. The default listing features the three main bets. Here’s a look at how each one works.
NBA moneyline betting
Choose which side you think will win the game. The direction of the odds will point you to favorites and underdogs: negative for the former and positive for the latter. A large gap between the numbers indicates an anticipated mismatch, while a closer range indicates a toss-up.
|Los Angeles Lakers||-115|
Learn more: What is the moneyline?
NBA point spread betting
Sportsbooks set a spread, which is essentially an estimated margin of victory to factor into your decision. You can bet on the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the number. To win the bet, the side you choose has to cover the spread.
|Los Angeles Clippers||+2.5 (-110)|
|Brooklyn Nets||-2.5 (-110)|
NBA totals betting
This wager is very popular for NBA games. Oddsmakers set a benchmark number of total combined points. You decide if you think the actual total points for the game will be over or under that amount.
For daily NBA slates, you might see odds for the following day’s games the evening before, and they should be out everywhere by the morning of the contest. After release, the odds and lines can shift in response to betting action or new information such as injuries.
It’s a good idea to shop around prior to placing your bets. The numbers won’t always be exactly the same everywhere, and seemingly minor ticks of difference can add up. Some bettors like to wager soon after the initial release, while others prefer waiting until closer to tipoff.
|Time of Bet||Advantage||Disadvantage|
|Once lines are released||You’re wagering on the number set by the book without worrying about market influences.||New information may emerge in advance of tipoff that could impact the bet.|
|Just ahead of tipoff||All of the information is in and the market has spoken.||Late movements can impact your perception of the contest.|
|Live after the game has started||Real-time wagering that allows you to focus on the game in progress.||Need to pay careful attention as the game plays out.|
When betting at legal sportsbooks, there are house rules in place for all sports. The standard rules cover the placement and settlement of bets, as well as any circumstances that could impact the proceedings. For the NBA, here are some points to keep in mind.
- The sportsbook will consider all bets action once the game gets underway. They’ll remain live in the event of a slight delay, but a complete cancellation or postponement will lead to voided bets.
- Sportsbooks will remove prop bets on players who fail to suit up or are ruled out prior to a game, and will void and refund any placed bets.
- A spread or total bet that lands exactly on the listed number — i.e., a four-point spread or 210-point total — is a push, with neither side winning and the wagered amount refunded.
Futures, props and live betting odds
The big three pregame bets bring in lots of action for the NBA, but those aren’t the only ways to bet on the game. There’s an active futures market for pro basketball, as well as lots of props for each contest. Once the games start, you can also place live bets as the action plays out.
NBA futures betting
Futures odds for the NBA will appear first in the offseason and are for long-term bets, generally on outcomes of the full season or playoffs.
- NBA Finals winner
- Division and conference winners
- Team regular season win totals
- Clubs to qualify for or miss the playoffs
- MVP, rookie of the year and other award winners
- Season-long leaders and individual player accomplishments
When betting on futures, the goal is to make the right call while also finding the selections you want at the best possible prices. This is another area in which line shopping can be beneficial.
NBA prop betting
You can find available props for upcoming NBA games by clicking on the individual game listing. There’s typically a range of choices for each contest, with options including game, team, and player scenarios.
- Will overtime be necessary — yes/no?
- Which side will lead at halftime — New York Knicks or Denver Nuggets?
- How many total points will Stephen Curry score — over/under 28.5?
On the player prop side, those with fantasy sports experience often find this to be a natural entry point for crossing into sports betting. Many wagers revolve around specific accomplishments, so projection skills and experience translate well.
NBA live betting
After the games get started, you have the opportunity to live bet as the action plays out. Many legal shops have dedicated sections for current and upcoming live betting offerings.
- Updated game lines: You’ll see updated odds for the moneyline, spread and total based on what’s happening right now.
- Quarters and halves: You can focus on specific segments of the game, such as which team will score more points in the second quarter.
- Player props: There will be a lot of prop-style bets throughout the game, many of which will resemble what you would see prior to tipoff.
Live betting is fast-paced, which makes it easy to get caught up in the action. That being the case, it’s imperative to have a clear budget in place and limits to adhere to whenever you plan on live betting on an NBA game.
Understanding the juice/vig
When placing a bet at a sportsbook, you aren’t receiving the service for free. Sportsbooks charge a vig, short for vigorish, as a fee. It’s often referred to as juice and is an important concept to grasp as it can have a direct impact on your potential returns.
For bets that use a set range of odds, such as the standard -110 on spreads and totals, the amount of the vig is fairly easy to figure. If you place a $100 bet at odds of -110 and go on to win, you’ll get back $90.90. You’ve made a 90.9% profit, while the book has charged a 9.1% vig.
It’s not quite as clear cut in other wagers such as moneylines and props, but the vig is being accounted for by the book. A slight difference in the odds — such as -105 vs. -110 — impacts the amount of the vig, so seasoned bettors are accustomed to shopping around for odds.
To further understand the impact of the vig, consider that bettors who win 51% of their bets at odds of -110 wouldn’t be profitable. In order to completely cover the juice being charged, you would have to win 52.4% of wagers to break even.
Offshore sites and illegal betting
Since the federal legal sports betting barrier came down in May 2018, many states have come online, and there will be more that do so in the future. Despite that, an active black market for wagering remains, including via offshore sites. These are sites that operate outside of US jurisdiction and claim that all is well due to vagueness in certain laws.
Some of these entities have been around for a while, and others have come and gone without notice. There might be offerings that you won’t find at legal sportsbooks, as well, such as props on things that are happening off the court. Most things may appear normal, but the bottom line is that playing on these sites is not a sound idea.
At legal sportsbooks, there are protections in place for consumers and a clear means of resolving any problems that could arise. That’s not the case with offshore operators. Your funds might be at risk by playing there as a result. In the current environment, playing at unregulated betting sites is an unneeded risk.
How the playoffs work
Since the 1984 season, the NBA playoffs have traditionally included 16 teams: eight each from the Eastern and Western Conference. The format was expanded prior to the restarted 2019-20 season to include play-in rounds. That addition is here to stay this season. Here’s how the NBA playoffs will work under those rules.
- The top six teams in each conference — three division winners and next best records — receive automatic bids.
- The final two seeds in each conference will be decided via a play-in tournament. Teams with the seventh- through 10th-best records in the conferences will compete.
- Tiebreakers will determine seeds and qualifications as necessary.
- After the play-in round, the NBA playoffs begin, with four rounds in total.
- The rounds are best-of-seven with winners advancing — i.e., the team to win four games first.
- The final rounds on both sides of the bracket are the conference championships, with winners advancing to the NBA Finals.
While all NBA games attract plenty of betting action, it’s the top matchups such as nationally televised affairs that bring in the most volume during the regular season. Once the postseason rolls around, all contests are heavily bet.
Betting on the NBA Finals
The NBA Finals pit the winners of the two conferences in a best-of-seven series to determine a champion. It’s the signature event of the NBA season, and also the star attraction from a betting perspective. You can bet on the NBA Finals in several ways. Here are some of the top options:
- Moneyline, spreads and totals for each game.
- Bet on the overall winner.
- Wager on which player will be named MVP.
For each game throughout the series, there will also be plenty of props to choose from. After the games tip off, you can place live bets in real time. The games are an active time for legal sportsbooks, and we can assume it will become even more intense as additional states legalize wagering.
The NBA’s shift to legal sports betting
In the days when legal sports betting was off the table outside of Nevada, the NBA followed the same stance as other sports. The league kept its distance and expected its players and teams to do the same. This was especially true back in 2007 after a controversy erupted with an NBA referee and gambling.
Following a landmark Supreme Court ruling of 2018 that shifted the legality question into the hands of the individual states, the NBA began to soften its public stance. Since then, the league has signed a number of sponsorship deals with sports betting operators, and it has permitted its teams to do the same.
In the new legal environment, business has been booming on the state level. The NBA has been one of the top attractions. Moving forward, it’s reasonable to expect that the league’s relationship with legalized betting will continue to grow.
Since 2018, the NBA has inked deals with a number of gambling companies, including MGM Resorts International, DraftKings and FanDuel. Individual teams can sign their own sponsorship deals, as well, and many have done just that.
|Detroit Pistons||DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, BetRivers||All operators gain access to various promotional and advertising opportunities.|
|Denver Nuggets||PointsBet||Named official betting partner on team media outlets, branding throughout the arena.|
|Indiana Pacers||DraftKings, PointsBet||DraftKings gets branding in the arena and a postgame presence. PointsBet gets signage and special sign-up offers.|
|Memphis Grizzlies||FanDuel||Marketing in the arena, access to marks and logos, contest integration in game telecasts.|
|New York Knicks||DraftKings, FanDuel||Arena signage and various other promotional and advertising opportunities.|
|Philadelphia 76ers||BetMGM, DraftKings, Fox Bet||BetMGM gets signage and a branded game. DraftKings gets marks, logos and other opportunities. Fox Bet gets branding across 76ers assets.|
|Washington Wizards||William Hill||Exclusive sports betting partner of the team with access to various marketing and promotional opportunities.|
As more markets open, partnership deals with local teams are a promotional opportunity for sportsbooks. We’re expecting to see more deals with NBA teams and sports betting companies in the future as additional states legalize sports betting.