NBA Players May Be Barred from Investing in Sports Betting
Credit: Elsa, Getty. Kevin Durant during a game against the Knicks.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated for context and clarity.
NBA players looking to capitalize on the sports betting boom that’s made their teams millions may be flying in the face of league rules.
According to NBA sources, the league prohibits current players from owning interests in, endorsing, or otherwise promoting any business that offers NBA wagering.
The prohibition extends to all coaches, executives, referees and employees involved in gameplay. Team governors — the rebranded term for a team owner — may own sports betting stock, barring any involvement in NBA wagering operations, a source with knowledge of the NBA’s rules confirmed.
The exception allowed Houston Rockets governor Tilman Fertitta to acquire $700M in DraftKings shares after the sports betting giant acquired his stake in Golden Nugget Online Gaming in 2021.
Next season, five NBA teams will have in-arena sportsbooks, while the rest of the league profits from over 41 betting sponsors. Players receive roughly half of the league’s gambling-related revenue under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, though it makes no mention of any investment restrictions.
Major League Baseball recently changed its rules to allow player endorsements with sportsbooks. While the NBA has not yet dealt with any violations, league sources said, the complications, for the league and the players, are growing.
Recently Underdog Fantasy — which boasts investments from Kevin Durant, Trae Young and Mark Cuban — announced plans to open sportsbooks in several states next year.
Underdog, which did not respond to requests for comments, made those investments public in the same press release where it announced plans to “build innovative licensed sports betting products”.
It’s applied for licenses in Colorado and Ohio, according to the Colorado Division of Gaming and Ohio Casino Control Commission.
Sources say the NBA is “monitoring” the situation, but unless more companies disclose their investors, it’s unclear how the league would know who’s violating its policy.
“That information is impossible to get,” says Adam Steffanus, a senior portfolio manager at financial planning firm Advisory Research, who focuses on gaming companies. “There’s no database. If they don’t want to disclose their investors, you’re just never going to find out.”
Restrictions on sports betting are part of “ongoing discussions between the NBA and NBA Players Association” as the industry continues to grow, league sources added.
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