The National Basketball Association intends to launch a virtual sports betting product, marking a first for a major North American sports league.
On Wednesday, the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association and virtual sports betting developers Highlight Games announced the imminent launch of NBA Last 90, a virtual betting product that uses actual NBA highlights and footage. (Check out a preview here.)
Last 90 will involve moments of actual NBA games made to simulate the final 90 seconds of a matchup, with bettors invited to wager on a variety of props, including which team will win, first basket and over/under point totals.
However, there’s no use memorizing every moment of the past few NBA seasons, as the wonders of technology mean there are millions of possible outcomes of these simulated contests that will be decided by a random number generator.
Highlight Games is majority owned by Nordic online gambling operator Cherry AB and the idea is to distribute NBA Last 90 to licensed operators in regulated European gambling markets across retail, online and mobile channels. The product is expected to make its US debut “later in the 2019-20 NBA season.”
Virtual sports betting is all the rage in European gambling markets, including the UK, where it accounted for online turnover of £726m and revenue of £73.4m in the 12 months ending September 2018. In Italy, virtual betting (online and retail) generated revenue of €25.4m in the month of May alone.
Virtual sports has slowly been making in-roads into the US market. Inspired Gaming brought retail virtual sports to Nevada in 2016, launched in New Jersey’s regulated online gambling market in 2017 and helped launch the Pennsylvania Lottery’s virtual football and racing products last year.
Regardless, the fact that a league like the NBA is involving itself so deeply with an actual betting product is testament to how much the US market has changed since the US Supreme Court overturned the federal betting prohibition in May 2018.
The NBA was an early advocate for legal sports betting but the league has become increasingly cutthroat in its efforts to ensure it carves off a slice of betting proceeds, including issuing ultimatums to betting operators to become an Authorized Gaming Operator or face the loss of official league data for betting purposes.