NBA to reinforce gambling policies, eyes EPL as example

LONDON -- The NBA is preparing to double down on policing its players, teams and staff amid the expansion of legalized sports gambling in the United States, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum told ESPN.

Speaking in the United Kingdom on Wednesday, Tatum, who is also the NBA's chief operating officer, revealed that moves have been made to get up to speed on the opportunities and threats surrounding the issue since May's Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to sanction sportsbooks in a manner that has been commonplace in Europe for decades.

That will mean extra resources to prevent the kind of in-house infractions that have plagued a number of sports, such as soccer, tennis and cricket. Spanish police recently arrested 28 professional tennis players, including one who participated in the US Open, who were linked to a group accused of fixing matches.

NBA's gaming rules, overseen by the league's security department, specifically prohibit betting, fixing or tipping, including the encouragement of others to place wagers, or exercising any "improper influence or manipulation."

With both the league and its teams eager to claim a share of the revenues generated from sportsbooks, those lines could quickly be blurred. That will require a more deliberate approach and greater investment, Tatum acknowledged, to remain fully above board.

"A lot of it has to do with education with respect to our players, with respect to our teams," he said. "We're spending a lot of time learning from the mistakes that were made and what we're seeing in sports betting in places around the world.

"We're trying to educate our fans. We're educating our players and our teams. We're taking a little bit of a cautious approach here. ... But generally, we think it's a good thing for sports betting to be regulated, to be legalized, so there is better information being captured."

The NBA already employs Swiss-based data agency Sportradar to provide information and flag possible betting anomalies surrounding its games.

Yet advice has also been sought, and insights taken, from the English Premier League. Nine of its 20 clubs have betting firms as their primary jersey sponsors, and almost every British stadium incorporates betting outlets and pitchside advertising of the latest odds, especially during matches broadcast on live television.

However, within British soccer, there have been calls for a greater awareness of the possible negative impacts on society, such as gambling addictions for both the public and players.

How the Premier League strikes a balance between revenues and responsibility has been closely observed, Tatum said.

"That really helped inform some of our thoughts on how sports betting could work in the United States. We're seeing a large shift now and a change in the landscape of sports betting in the U.S.," Tatum said. "We've gone to school on them. We've actually shared a lot of information with them and have a great partnership with them."

With London's O2 Arena hosting Thursday's game between the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks, the NBA will make its annual push for even greater relevance in the UK and the rest of Europe.

This will be the ninth time that the NBA has held a regular-season game in London, but strong indications have been given that the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin and the refurbished Bercy Arena in Paris could host an expanded slate of European games within the next few years.

"You look at the 65 European players we have in our league today from 24 different countries throughout Europe," Tatum said. "I'd love to say and I would anticipate that there will be games played in Europe, outside the UK, in the near future."

While interest in adding Europe-based NBA franchises -- a popular cause for former commissioner David Stern -- will be less of a priority than pushing digital content and the number of overseas trips, the fact that some of the continent's marquee soccer teams are investing heavily in their adjoining EuroLeague basketball sides might one day make them intriguing candidates to join the fold, Tatum said.

"Those are some of the most recognizable brands in the world," he said. "And the fact that Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, they have basketball franchises. For us, that is very attractive. That they're investing in growing the game of basketball is very important."