NBA Finals Hit Dallas As League Pushes For Federal Oversight Of Sports Betting

Written By Phil West on June 12, 2024 - Last Updated on June 13, 2024
NBA Finals banner outside American Airlines Center, where game 3 takes place tonight amid the Porter betting scandal

The NBA Finals return to Dallas where the Mavericks look to bounce back. As they tip off game 3, NBA action heats up off the court as the Jontay Porter betting scandal expands and the NBA pushes for federal oversight of sports betting.

For those wanting to bet on basketball in the Lone Star State, there’s no legal means to do so. There are social sportsbooks like Fliff, which allow you to make picks for free or for a chance to win cash prizes, but no regulated online sportsbooks.

Without legal regulated sports betting in Texas, the state is without a mechanism that one of the league’s top officials says is essential in rooting out cases like the Jontay Porter betting scandal.

Legal sports betting industry helped uncover Jontay Porter betting scandal

The former Toronto Raptors forward was hit with a lifetime ban from the NBA in April after league officials learned he was betting on basketball. That led Mark Tatum, the NBA’s deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, to publicly acknowledge the sports betting industry’s role in flagging Porter’s activity.

Tatum’s comments, shared by CBC News last week by way of the Canadian Press, included,

“The fact that we were able to look at certain irregularities in betting lines and the data that we were able to receive from our partners allowed this to come into the light. We’ve always been, again, an advocate for a federal regulatory framework here. I think it creates transparency that we didn’t have previously, which allows us to maintain the integrity of the sport, which is essential to all sports leagues.”

Tatum also noted of the changed US sports betting landscape following the overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act,

“When the Supreme Court overturned PASPA in the US, that really left sort of two options, right? Continue the illegal sports betting, or … embrace a legalized sports betting system so that, quite frankly, we could identify the sort of behavior that this uncovered.”

Last week, a lawyer involved in Porter’s case issued a statement to the Associated Press blaming Porter’s actions on a gambling addiction.

Jeff Jensen, a government investigations attorney in St. Louis working with Porter, said,

“Jontay is a good young man with strong faith that will get him through this. He was in over his head due to a gambling addiction. He is undergoing treatment and has been fully cooperative with law enforcement.”

The investigation uncovered Porter’s early exits from two NBA games this past season “specifically to influence the outcome of one or more bets on his performance,” according to Yahoo!’s account.

Four people involved with the sports betting scandal have been arrested, including Long Phi Pham, of Brooklyn, who is suspected of coordinating his betting with Porter. Pham was apprehended last week at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City while attempting to board a flight to Australia with a one-way ticket.

The article notes, “He reportedly had $12,000 in cash, two cashier’s checks totaling $80,000, betting slips, and three cellphones on his person.”

Keeping a close eye on NBA reporting during Mavericks/Celtics series

Rece Davis got in hot water with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for uttering the expression “risk-free bet” on the air for ESPN during last college basketball season.

Since the launch of the ESPN Bet Sportsbook, ESPN has begun to integrate betting-focused content into its broadcasts more heavily. Despite the push to convert sports fans to sports bettors, the network must still follow best practices around responsible gambling. This includes making sure on-air talent uses appropriate language to discuss gambling content.

Davis’s “risk free” comment is an example of a commentator speaking off-handedly and, by all accounts, playfully, about a sporting event. His language violated rules about what can and cannot be called a “risk free bet”, and regulators in Massachusetts must now decide what the appropriate sanction should be for ESPN Bet.

With ABC, parent company of ESPN, airing game three tonight in Dallas, the spotlight will be on the game and the broadcasters. Neither the NBA nor any Walt Disney Company needs another gambling-related scandal.

Photo by Julio Cortez / AP Images
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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