Can The Legalization Of Sports Betting Help The WNBA?
By Patrick Ralph
The Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court in the land, made a monumental ruling in May. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that states could legalize sports betting by striking down a federal law from 1992 that prevented states from authorizing sports gambling.
With many states, if not most, looking to pass new laws to permit sports betting in order to generate revenue, professional and collegiate sports have had no choice but to embrace this new reality. Organizations such as the NCAA, NFL and NBA supported the federal ban.
Similar to its cohorts, the WNBA has also acknowledged and accepted the expanded role that sports betting will have on the game.
“Our efforts are aligned with the NBA regarding legalized sports betting,” league spokesperson Dina Skokos said in a statement to WNBAInsidr. “We support the adoption of a framework that ensures the protection of our fans and the integrity of our games.”
When asked if the WNBA supported the NBA’s proposal of a one percent integrity fee and if it would be interested in implementing a similar policy, the league did not respond for comment.
The one percent integrity fee proposed by the NBA is the league saying that it wants a commission and piece of the sports gambling action. Characterized as an integrity fee, the NBA has requested to receive one percent of the amount wagered on any NBA games and that the fee should come out of revenue earned by sports betting operators.
While the WNBA has not formally endorsed the plan, it would not be surprising if the league adopted the same measure given its connection to the NBA and its statement reflecting that the two leagues are on the same page when it comes to the sports gambling issue.
The NBA’s willingness to take just one percent of the revenue from bets wagered on games reflects just how much money can be made by both the leagues and sports betting operators from the legalization of sports gambling. Therefore, it could be a very wise and smart decision by the WNBA to implement the same policy for bets wagered on games, too. Increasing the league’s revenue will only expand its resources and give it more momentum in continuing to grow.
The WNBA’s open-mindedness to the expansion of sports gambling became evident when the league approved the sale and relocation of the San Antonio Stars to Las Vegas, who rebranded as the Aces. MGM Resorts, which owns and operates several casinos, is the owner of the team. The league would not have approved the sale of a WNBA franchise to the gambling capital of the world if it was not comfortable with sports betting moving into the mainstream of the industry.
In an interview with Cheddar last month, WNBA President Lisa Borders said that she expects sports betting will be another opportunity to expand the audience and viewership of the league.
"We are not a casino, but we will benefit indirectly," Borders said in the interview. "People will have to have knowledge. I expect it will bring in a new and more informed demographic.”
One area of gaming that the WNBA has already capitalized on is in daily fantasy sports, an area that has seen tremendous growth. Earlier this year, the WNBA and FanDuel announced a multi-year expansion of their existing partnership after their inaugural year working together in 2017.
FanDuel became the first daily fantasy sports site and official one-day fantasy partner to offer WNBA contests last season, as it generated over 2 million entries from fans and viewers. As the world of daily fantasy gaming continues to expand, it could get to a point where fans are able to wager live bets or participate in live daily fantasy sports while in the arena attending a WNBA game.
Some in the league, including Washington Mystics owner Ted Leonsis, are supportive of the legalization of sports betting.
"It brings a multibillion dollar industry out of the shadows and into the sunlight, where its integrity can be guaranteed and consumers can be better protected," Leonsis wrote in a blog post after the Supreme Court decision. ”I think that the increased transparency that will accompany more legalized betting around the country will only further protect against potential corruption.”
Since sports betting is popular among fans and it serves as a platform for many to engage with and become more interested in sports, it is in the WNBA’s best interest to embrace the trend rather than try to push back against it. Being open to sports gambling and the benefits that it can produce will only help the league grow in exposure and visibility both on and off the floor. Those who come to the WNBA as sports bettors may stay as fans of the league.
Needless to say, the legalization of sports betting and its place in sports such as the WNBA will be rolled out very carefully. But this could be the untapped gambling and revenue market that helps the WNBA explode into the mainstream sports world.