NBA breaks fresh ground for sports with first gambling data deal


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The National Basketball Association has signed the first gambling data partnerships in the U.S., giving two firms the right to sell the fastest and most accurate NBA information to bookmakers across the country.

Under identical multiyear deals, Genius Sports Group and Sportradar AG will be the official gatekeepers of the NBA and WNBA’s betting data, serving as middlemen of sorts between the leagues and gambling houses across the country.

Though financial terms weren’t disclosed, these sorts of deals tend to be among the most expensive in the sports-gambling industry. That’s because of the exploding popularity of live betting, also called in-play betting, where gamblers wager on small possibilities within a game. As bookmakers pursue more micro-betting markets — say, offering odds on the next free throw or who will commit the next foul — they need access to the most instantaneous and reliable data.

“We’ve been consistent that we want all legal operators to be using official data, and this framework ensures that there’s a competitive marketplace for it,” said Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA’s vice president of fantasy and gaming. “That’s the unique part of this deal, that it’s not exclusive — and that’s different from what’s done with many other leagues around the world.”

The growth of legal sports betting in the U.S. will benefit sports leagues and teams in different ways, from sponsorship opportunities to increased fan interest and TV ratings. But if leagues like the NBA are unsuccessful in persuading state legislators to give them a direct cut of every dollar wagered on their games, the sale of their official data could be the most significant way they profit directly off the new industry.

For London-based Genius Sports, the deal provides validation in the U.S. market, said Chief Commercial Officer Jack Davison. The company will now work to take the NBA’s raw data and turn it into products that sportsbooks can then offer to bettors.

“If you gave many sportsbook operators some raw data from an NBA game, they wouldn’t really know what to do with it because they don’t have the technology, or the resources or the expertise,” Davison said. “That’s what they get in working with us. We’re adding a whole product layer that turns real-time data into an in-game product.”

Sportradar and Genius Sports already do extensive work across the major U.S. sports leagues, deals that include non-gambling data in the U.S., gambling data overseas and monitoring services that detect suspicious betting patterns. Both also recently underwent major ownership changes: A minority stake sale valued Sportradar at $2.4 billion, while Genius Sports sold to private equity firm Apax Partners for an undisclosed number.

Sportradar has already started signing partnerships to distribute this data. Earlier this month, the company signed a partnership with bookmaker MGM Resorts International, making it the official data provider for the company’s various sportsbooks around the country. The National Football League owns a minority stake as well, and its investors include a trio of NBA owners — Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, Ted Leonsis and Mark Cuban.

The company also has a number of existing deals with the NBA. In 2016, it signed a six-year $250 million deal to distribute the league’s overseas gambling data. And it does integrity monitoring for the league, and has some live audio and video rights that it distributes to betting houses outside the U.S.

Now that we’re coming here to the U.S., a lot of this will hopefully be seamless for us, working with existing clients just in a new territory,” said Jake Williams, a Sportradar executive overseeing legal and regulatory affairs. “Of course, there will be new customers — and new customer segments — from Tribal to other local casinos. But the NBA does a great job with their live data, and this is a true collaboration effort.”

The NBA continues to be a leader in the nascent U.S. sports-gambling industry. Adam Silver was the first major league commissioner to argue against the federal sports-betting ban, and the league was also the first to partner with a sportsbook.

Bloomberg News