U.S. Sports Leagues Keep Focus On Prop Bets

May 8, 2024
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his Major League Baseball counterpart have said that leagues are closely monitoring the types of available proposition bets across the U.S. market in the wake of recent integrity concerns.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his Major League Baseball counterpart have said that leagues are closely monitoring the types of available proposition bets across the U.S. market in the wake of recent integrity concerns.

ESPN reported last week that the NBA has already had discussions with U.S. sports-betting operators that have partnerships with the league about potentially limiting the types of basketball proposition bets available, with a focus on players who earn salaries below the league's standard minimum scale.

The conversations are a result of the permanent ban issued to former Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter, after a league investigation found that Porter left games early with alleged injuries or illnesses while associates bet heavily on the under side of his player propositions.

Porter was under an NBA “two-way contract,” a deal which allows players to be easily shuttled between a team’s active roster and a minor league G-League affiliate. That contract features a maximum salary of just over $508,000 for a full season, which is less than half of the league’s standard minimum salary for rookies and almost a quarter of the league’s minimum salary for a player with two years of experience.

“We only have so much control,” Silver said of available bet types during a conversation with the Associated Press Sports Editors, as reported by CBS Sports.

“For example, the NCAA has made the point about the risk to college players. There's a large pool of players in college whose careers will end after they participate in college athletics, so there's not as much at stake,” he added.

“There's clearly a lot more at stake for a superstar player than there is for a two-way player, so it goes to the kinds of players those bets can be placed on, and then the types of bets as well.”

“Certainly, prop bets, depending on how precise they are, lend themselves to more shenanigans than other kinds of bets.”

Silver said that although monitoring of the regulated market can flag some of those issues, he believes more betting takes place in the illegal U.S. market. 

“There are limits to our control, but we think there should be a regulated framework, where it's the leagues working together with the state oversight groups and the betting companies, whether or not we have partnerships with them,” he said.  

“In some cases we have partnerships with, just take DraftKings and FanDuel, where we don't have absolute control, but when we have a marketing partnership with those companies we have a lot more say than with companies where we have no partnership whatsoever. 

“Then we're relying on them doing a broader based concern about integrity in the industry and them not running afoul of the regulators.”

In his own meeting with APSE, Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Rob Manfred said prop bets have always been a focus for the MLB.

“We've been on prop bets from the very beginning,” Manfred said, according to CBS. “When we lobby in states, there's always certain types of bets that we have lobbied against — I mean, the first pitch of the game, we really don't want that available as a prop bet.”

Although the recent charges against an interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani, one of the sport’s biggest stars, drew plenty of headlines linking Ohtani to gambling, federal investigators said Ohtani was a victim of theft rather than an active participant in a betting scheme, and Manfred pointed out that a MLB player has yet to be implicated in impermissible betting since the expansion of sports betting in 2018.

“When you have problems in our sport or in other sports, it makes you refocus your efforts but we really do think that our integrity program, in terms of the monitoring and data available to us, protects the sport,” he said.

“We were kind of dragged into legalized sports betting as a litigant in a case that ended up in the Supreme Court,” he added. “Having said that, I recognize, we are probably better today than when we were involved in that litigation, that one of the advantages of legalization is it's a heck of a lot easier to monitor what's going on than it is with an illegal operation.”

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