The NBA 2K League — an esports league based on the popular basketball video game — has disqualified five players and a coach for violations of the association’s betting and fantasy sports protocols.
Details are sparse, but the league said Christopher Lafanette, Dorian Earl Miller, and Robert Nastasi of Blazer5 Gaming, Jazz Gaming’s Kimmani Ingram, and Zekkiri Davis of Mavs Gaming all bet on, or tried to wager on, NBA 2K League competitions. All five have been disqualified, as has Blazer5 Gaming Coach Andrew Maxie.
We take our obligation to the competition and to our fans incredibly seriously, and we will always act forcefully regarding violations of the rules governing game integrity and the related reporting and cooperation requirements,” said NBA 2K President Brenda Donohue in a statement.
Gill and Maxie ran afoul of league rules by failing to report the violations, and the coach’s disqualification was deemed indefinite by the association. The NBA 2K League is a partnership between the NBA and video game giant Take-Two Interactive, the game’s publisher. This is the fifth year of competition in the league and 22 of its 25 teams are tied to NBA franchises.
Not 2K’s First Betting Scandal
This isn’t the esports league’s first brush with wagering-related controversy. In 2020, sportsbooks stopped accepting bets on the league’s Players Tournament, which was comprised of NBA players, upon learning the action was prerecorded, not airing live as the books thought it was.
In 2019, Heat Check Gaming (HCG) — the 2K team tied to the Miami Heat — dismissed a player for supplying insider information to a person he knew was wagering on games. While HCG said Basil Rose, the player in question, didn’t conspire to fix games, he did violate the league’s anti-wagering policies.
Wagering on competitive computer gaming is viewed as a future growth driver for the US sports betting industry, though it hasn’t been tapped into in a significant fashion yet. Esports is widely watched in the US, and analysts expect it to eclipse all traditional sports, except the NFL, in terms of television viewership over the next several years.
NBA 2K highlights that potential. The league has more than two million followers across various social media channels, and it’s generated over 691 million video views on those platforms, according to its website.
Esports wagering is fully legal in Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee, and West Virginia, but it’s not yet a big driver of handle for sportsbooks.
NBA 2K Must Take Hardline
Like any traditional league, it’s to the NBA 2K League’s advantage to allay concerns about improper betting because of the fact that, as is the case with other leagues, the esports basketball association has extensive corporate partnerships.
NBA 2K League sponsors include AT&T, Coinbase, Google, Oreo, and Snickers, among others.
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