Legal NBA betting provides an intense experience matched by few sports. Between the speed of the game and sudden changes in momentum, basketball pairs well with sports betting to keep bettors active and engaged from start to finish.
League officials have tentatively scheduled the 2021 NBA season to begin on January 18th but have not yet committed to a firm date. The start of the season is still subject to coronavirus disruptions and negotiations between the league and the players’ union.
In any case, the next NBA season will get underway soon, and now is the time to find a reliable sportsbook. On this page, BettingUSA.com provides a thorough guide to getting started. Below, readers can see where it is legal to bet on the NBA online and in-person, see listings of recommended mobile betting apps, the latest NBA odds, and much more.
Best NBA Betting Sites
Live NBA Betting Odds
Where It Is Legal to Bet on the NBA
The map below provides an overview of where it is legal to bet on the NBA in the USA. This map is color-coded to show which states have legal mobile betting and retail sportsbooks. Readers can hover or tap on any state to see what options they have for legal NBA betting.
States with Legal Sports Betting
- Blue: Online and mobile betting is legal
- Green: Retail sportsbooks only (no online betting)
- Red: NBA betting coming soon; legislation fully passed but waiting for implementation
Additional states are considering legislation to legalize sports betting, but progress comes in fits and starts. For readers in states that do not yet have legal NBA betting, the next closest thing to full-fledged sports betting is daily fantasy sports.
Best NBA Sportsbooks and Apps
The only surefire way to ensure a fair NBA betting experience is to do business exclusively with legal, licensed, and regulated sportsbooks.
Identifying Licensed Online Sportsbooks
Bettors who live in states with mobile sports betting can view our recommendations by state for licensed online sportsbooks. BettingUSA focuses strictly on legal betting in the United States and only recommends sportsbooks authorized in each state.
In most states with legal online NBA betting, readers can verify our recommendations on the official website of the gaming regulator where they live.
Comparing Licensed Betting Sites
Generally, all licensed betting sites are quality places to bet on the NBA and other sports. Licensing guidelines are strict in states with legal sports betting, which keeps the overall quality of mobile sportsbooks high.
It’s tough to go too far wrong as long as one sticks with licensed sportsbooks, but it is also true that some sportsbooks are better than others when it comes specifically to betting on the NBA online.
Two aspects in which licensed sportsbooks may vary significantly are the quality of the lines and the number of markets offered for each NBA game. The best NBA betting sites provide competitive lines (see our line pricing tool above to compare the odds across popular sportsbooks) and many individual wagers for each game.
Considering Other Odds and Ends
There is also the occasional odd exception such as Golden Nugget Online in New Jersey, which is prohibited by law from accepting wagers on any NBA game involving the Houston Rockets due to Golden Nugget’s owner also having an interest in the team.
The restriction (which is specific to New Jersey) is not due to Golden Nugget doing anything wrong; it is merely a function of NJ law that prohibits anyone with a significant ownership stake in a sports team from taking wagers on events involving that team.
The law previously prohibited Golden Nugget from accepting any wagers whatsoever on the NBA, but lawmakers relaxed the rule in 2019. Under the revised guidelines, sportsbooks are only prohibited from taking bets on specific teams if there is an ownership conflict of interest.
Lawmakers implement these types of restrictions out of a desire to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and any repeats of scandals such as the one involving former NBA ref Tim Donaghy.
How to Bet on the NBA Online
Getting started with NBA betting is simple as long as one has a basic understanding of the odds. Every NBA bet is presented with moneyline odds that explain the relationship between risk and reward.
How NBA Odds Work
Teams or outcomes that are favored to happen are presented with negative moneyline odds such as -110, -220, -350, and so on. The larger the number behind the negative sign, the more likely the outcome, and the more one will have to wager relative to the potential payout.
Negative moneyline odds indicate how much the bettor must risk to win $100. Odds of -110 indicate the bettor must risk $110 to win $100 (or $1.10 to win $1.00), while odds of -350 indicate the bettor must risk $350 to win $100 (or $3.50 to win $1.00).
Teams or outcomes that are considered less likely to occur are presented with positive moneyline odds.
Positive moneyline odds express how much the bettor stands to win per $100 wagered. For example, odds of +250 indicate the bettor must risk $100 to win $250 while odds of +110 indicate the bettor must risk $100 to win $110.
All potential wins discussed above relate to net profit only. The actual amount returned will be larger as bettors also receive their original stake back as a part of the payout.
For example, a winning $100 bet at odds of +250 would return a total of $350 ($250 in net profit plus the return of the original $100 stake).
For more details and examples, see the BettingUSA live odds guide.
Types of NBA Wagers
The number of wagers available for any single NBA game can vary by a wide margin depending on how far out the game is scheduled. Most sportsbook post game lines early in the week and then add markets as tipoff approaches, starting with standard game outcome wagers and then adding alternative lines, player props, team props, and more.
Some of the most common types of NBA wagers include:
- Moneyline: Straight bet on which team will win; moneyline odds pay more for the underdog and less for the favorite
- Point Spread: Bet on which team will win; favored team has to win by X points to “cover the spread”
- Point Total: Bet on the combined total points scored by both teams; sportsbook sets the total, and bettors take the over or the under at roughly even money odds
- Game Props: Wagers on things other than the outcome or point total; game props can cover anything from whether the final score will be even/odd to which team will score the last basket
- Team Props: Like game props, but specific to one team; examples include team totals and team total field goals
- Player Props: Prop bets on individual players, such as total rebounds or field goal percentage
- NBA Futures: Longer-term bets such as regular-season win totals, which team will win the championship, and player to be named MVP
- Parlays: Combine several bets into one for a larger payout; every leg must win, or the entire wager is lost
- Alternate Spreads: Same type of wager as standard point spreads, but with the spread adjusted, which impacts the odds; for example, bettors can back the favorite but increase the point spread for a larger potential payout
- In-play Betting: Wagers that are taken after the game has started and throughout the game. In-play bets can cover typical markets such as who will win (with odds updated in real-time) or shorter-term markets such as the next team to score
How In-Play NBA Betting Works
In-play NBA betting works a lot like standard betting but with wagers accepted during and throughout the game. The odds on in-play bets shift in real-time in accordance with what’s happening on the court to provide a constant stream of new wagers from start to finish.
The mechanics of in-play betting largely mimic those of pregame bets, but the experience is more intense as new wagers open constantly, and the odds shift frequently.
The NBA is a natural fit for in-play betting (also referred to as “live betting”) due to the pace of the game, frequent lead changes, and sudden changes in momentum. With in-play NBA betting, fans can watch a part of the game, get a feel for the momentum and then place wagers with that knowledge in hand.
In-play betting opens the door to a more engaging viewing experience and new opportunities as new wagers manifest throughout the game at odds that are always changing. Oddsmakers are good at what they do, but in-play betting provides more opportunities to find value.
NBA betting sites offer in-play markets for many of the same types of bets discussed above. Bettors can bet on the moneyline, point spread, or total during the game with odds that are adjusted nearly continuously.
Common in-play betting markets include the following.
- Moneyline, Point Spread, and Total: Same as pregame moneylines, spreads, and totals but available all game long with odds that are updated in real-time
- Team Totals: Bet on the total number of points to be scored by one team
- Race to X: Bet on which team will be the first to score 10, 20, 30, etc. points from the time the bet is placed
- Live Player Props: Bet on which player will score the next point, any player’s total points scored, and more
- Other Props: Other props, such as the outcome of the next set of free throws; availability varies by state and operator; some states only permit specific types of wagers, other states are more permissive
- Quarter/halftime results: In-play bets on which team will be winning at the end of the next quarter or half; some sportsbooks also offer in-play quarter/halftime totals
Betting on the NBA Finals
Licensed sportsbooks offer NBA finals betting year-round.
During the offseason and regular season, NBA finals bets are offered as simple wagers: which team will win the title? Betting opens full-bore when the Finals get underway, providing bettors a full complement of wagers on every game, prop bets on players, updated futures on which team will win it all, and much more.
The outright odds on who will win the NBA Championship shift and change over the year, first as more information about lineups and coaching changes comes out, and later as the season progresses.
Bettors can visit this page (scroll up) for up to date NBA finals odds throughout the year.
NBA Stance on Sports Betting
The NBA’s position on sports betting has long been more pragmatic than dogmatic.
Notably, its position shifted noticeably during the lead-up to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
The league supported the passage of PASPA in 1992 and joined the NCAA in opposing New Jersey’s attempts to legalize sports betting. But in 2014, as the Supreme Court case was dragging on and the league officially opposed legalization, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver penned a New York Times op-ed urging Congress to legalize and regulate sports betting.
Adam Silver described New Jersey’s effort to legalize sports betting as “unlawful and bad public policy,” but only in light of a lack of federal regulation. Although Silver opposed New Jersey’s approach, his support of legalization at the national level highlighted the NBA’s willingness to take a position other than outright opposition.
The NBA officially came around to Adam Silver’s point of view in 2017 when the league announced it would begin lobbying Congress to regulate sports betting at the federal level.
After the Supreme Court ruled for New Jersey in May 2018, the NBA reiterated its position with a statement that read in part:
Today’s decision by the Supreme Court opens the door for states to pass laws legalizing sports betting. We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures. Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.
NBA Lobbying Efforts
After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey, the NBA began lobbying state legislatures for certain concessions that would benefit the league.
The NBA has sought three concessions in particular to varying degrees of success:
- Integrity Fees: The NBA has lobbied state and federal lawmakers for a 1% fee to be taken off the top of all betting handle and paid to the leagues. The NBA has at times justified the integrity fee as necessary to offset the costs of protecting the league from corruption, and at other times as a sort of royalty fee for hosting the games people bet on
- Data Rights: The NBA wants any sports betting law to mandate that sports betting operators purchase data directly from the leagues. Operators use data to settle wagers and to provide bettors with in-play betting markets
- Right to Prevent Certain Types of Bets: The NBA wants to be able to have control over which types of wagers sportsbooks offer on its games. Specifically, the league wants to be able to tell sportsbook operators not to accept bets it believes are more susceptible to corruption – such as the first pitch of the game or other things that rely on the performance of a single athlete
The NBA has had limited success with data rights and no success with integrity fees, but the league is still well-positioned to benefit from legalization. As the American Gaming Association estimated in 2018, the NBA could see up to $585 million in additional revenue through increased fan engagement, sports betting sponsorship deals, advertising, and product fees resulting from widespread legalization.
Daily Fantasy NBA
If you’re still waiting for your state to legalize sports betting, that does not necessarily mean you have to sit on the sidelines in the meantime. Daily fantasy NBA contests are legal in most states today and offer a very close alternative to actual sports betting.
In fact, the daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry played an important role in helping sports leagues such as the NBA become more comfortable associating with sports gaming. FanDuel and DraftKings went on a major spree reaching partnerships with NBA teams back in 2014/2015 and proved pro sports could actually coexist with gaming companies and still maintain the integrity of their competitions.