NBC Sports Washington Plus will offer an alternate broadcast for Friday’s NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Milwaukee Bucks, one that is designed to appeal specifically to fans with a betting interest on the contest.
The secondary broadcast will feature on-screen displays with sports betting analytics and player stats, as well as featuring a free-to-play contest in which fans will be asked to make predictions as to what will happen during the game.
Free Games Could Give Way to Real Money Betting
The network plans to offer eight similar broadcasts this season. The programming will feature the same announcers, video feed, and commercial breaks as the standard broadcast on NBC Sports Washington, only with the added on-screen information and gameplay to heighten the experience.
The “Predict the Game” feature will offer viewers the chance to win prizes if they go to the network’s website and answer questions about what players might do in a given half or quarter. Contestants will have the opportunity to win $500 in the free game.
Eventually, however, the idea is that these offerings may turn into an opportunity to place bets directly through the broadcast they’re watching, something that might become possible upon the expected launch of legal sports betting in Washington, D.C. later this year.
“It’s the 1.0 version of where we’re ultimately going,” Zach Leonsis, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for Wizards ownership group Monumental Sports & Entertainment, told SportsBusiness Daily. “This will get more advanced…the challenge for operators will be to make sure that the game play is supportive and not interruptive of the broadcast itself.”
While the broadcasts may eventually have a heavier sports betting focus, the goal is to get casual bettors or sports fans who wouldn’t otherwise know how to get into betting a bit more invested into watching games on television.
“I’ve always been intrigued by how do you make the television viewing experience better,” NBC Sports Washington general manager Damon Phillips told The Washington Post. “From our perspective, we’re not necessarily going after the sharks or the high-rollers. We’re looking at trying to introduce sports betting to the casual fan.”
D.C. Still Waiting on Sports Betting Bill
The Council of the District of Columbia passed legislation last month that authorized sports betting in the city. The bills have yet to be signed or vetoed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, though she has been seen as supportive of the gambling expansion.
The bill will then need to make it through a 30-day review period by both houses of Congress, during which time the federal legislature can pass a joint resolution signed by the president to prevent the bill from becoming law. However, due to an emergency measure also passed by the city council, D.C. would be able to operate until the law for three months before Congress has a chance to review the act.
Currently, legal sports betting is available in eight states: Nevada, which has allowed the practice for decades, along with Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia, all of which have authorized sportsbooks since the Supreme Court decision last May which struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).