NBA A Pioneer of Sportsbook Partnerships

The NBA just struck a deal to partner with Bally's Corp., a mutual admiration society on each side. Bally's sportsbooks benefit. The league benefits. And they both benefit by greater engagement with the fans. And the 76ers have more than 30 partnerships with sports betting organizations.

The Philadelphia 76ers opened their second half March 11 with a win against the Chicago Bulls, keeping them atop their division. The regular season will continue through May 16.

Unlike last season, when the coronavirus pandemic shortened the second half and remaining games took place in a bubble in Orlando, Sixers’ games this year are beinig played at home, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly, and at arenas around the country.

Whether Joel Embiid & Co. stay in first place remains to be seen. But from the vantage point of sports betting, the fans are sure winners. The NBA has been out in front, helping break the stranglehold of opposition from professional leagues to sports wagers.

Out Front

The NBA was the first major U.S. sports league to see sports betting as a positive. It did so even as New Jersey lawmakers pressed their Supreme Court case to overturn PASPA.

In a 2014 op-ed by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, “he noted there was an estimated $400 billion illegally wagered on sports each year in the U.S.,” said Scott Kaufman-Ross, senior vice president and head of fantasy and gaming for the NBA, in comments to GGB News.

In 2018, with New Jersey victorious and legal sports betting starting to spread around the country, the NBA embraced the new world. The 76ers now partner with 30 authorized sports betting operators including DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars Interactive. The NBA itself has partnered with MGM Resorts International and earlier this month, forged an alliance with Bally’s Corp. These two-way street benefit both sides.

Take the DraftKings partnership. The sportsbook is now the exclusive daily fantasy partner of the 76ers as well as a sportsbook and online casino partner. “The 76ers are proud to continue to stand alongside DraftKings as we create and amplify expanded and differentiated opportunities for fans to engage with our team, dynamic players and sport,” said 76ers President Chris Heck when the agreement was announced in early 2020.

For its part, DraftKings offers VIPs a “Court of Dreams” excursion, giving them an all-access inside look at the 76ers’ training complex plus season tickets and suites for hospitality and promotional use. In exchange, the team provides various signage and other promotions for DraftKings.

The sportsbook has similar deals with the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics.

The 76ers highlight BetMGM on digital and social platforms as well as the 76ers app. BetMGM also has prominent signage in the arena during games, Molly Mita, 76ers’ director of communications, told GGB. MGM Resorts’ Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City is designated as an “Official Away Game Host of the Philadelphia 76ers,” an activation that will feature events onsite when it’s deemed safe to do so, Mita said.

Borgata will also host a co-branded season ticket member and VIP event in the future featuring casino games, appearances by 76ers legends, autographed memorabilia raffles and other exclusive prizes.

The 76ers have also partnered with Harrah’s casino and Caesars online, which includes a team app predictor game slated to launch during the second half of this season, along with Caesars signage on television broadcasts.

‘New, Creative, Engaging’

“Partnering with the NBA is an exceptional opportunity for Bally’s,” Bally’s CEO George Papanier said in a statement to herald its new arrangement with the league. “Together with the NBA, we’ll unlock significant opportunities to provide a greater population of NBA fans with new, creative and engaging sports betting products and services.”

It’s all part of the NBA’s strategy to help build the legal, regulated, transparent sports betting industry made possible by the overthrow of PASPA, and minimize the impact of the offshore market, Kaufman-Ross said.

“These partnerships, which provide Bally’s with access to official NBA marks and logos, will enhance fans’ engagement with their favorite NBA teams,” Adi Dhandhania, Bally’s vice president, strategic transactions and interactive development told GGB. “We intend to incorporate these assets across our interactive platforms, which will significantly improve players’ sports betting experience.”

There are several components the other side has to provide, Kaufman-Ross said.

“These include a commitment to provide certain information to help us protect the integrity of our games, collaborations on responsible gaming practices, opportunities to innovate with partners on new ways to engage fans who choose to interact with the NBA through a betting lens,” he said.

There’s also financial compensation for use of the official data feed, IP rights, and, in some cases, other assets such as marketing rights and inventory on NBA digital assets.

Bally’s agreement with the NBA adds to its burgeoning sports betting alliances and acquisitions. Last year, the company struck a strategic partnership with the Sinclair Broadcast Group and its 19 regional sports networks, which host more than half the teams in the NBA. And in February, the corporation partnered with the National Hockey League.

Bally’s continues to be open for new opportunities and relationships, Dhandhania said. “It’s part of our strategy to become a leader in the U.S. online sports betting and iGaming space,” he said.

It’s also a model for other companies, teams and stakeholders on how to slam it home.