Houston Rockets Promoted DraftKings Bet in Deleted Post

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The Houston Rockets recently made and then deleted a social media post promoting an in-game prop bet with leading online sportsbook DraftKings, despite sports betting in Texas being illegal.

The controversy may prove deeper than just criticism, as it is possible that the NBA team broke the rules of a responsible gambling advertising coalition it joined earlier this year.

DraftKings has been the exclusive daily fantasy sports, sports betting, and casino partner of the Rockets since 2021. The team’s owner, Tilman Fertitta, has a major interest in DraftKings, as it purchased his Golden Nugget Online Gaming arm in 2021.

This latest confusion on a social media post promoting sports betting in a jurisdiction where it is not regulated is indicative of the challenges facing U.S. sports teams and betting operators as they forge increasingly closer ties.

U.S. sports teams have traditionally distanced themselves from gambling. However, that approach has shifted quickly in the era of legalization.

The Specific Bet

On the team’s official X account, the Rockets posted a poll about player Jalen Green’s performance. Specifically, it asked whether he would attempt more or less than five three-pointers in a game against the Denver Nuggets.

The post also directly tagged DraftKings’ account on the platform, implying the poll was related to a bet.

The question was also framed as a typical over/under bet – a common type of wager in sports betting. While the tweet itself was not indicative of any foul play, it raised concerns because of its potential implications for game manipulation. That’s because the exact proposition (focused on attempts rather than successful shots) could be more easily influenced.

It also calls into question whether sports betting was being promoted to those under 21.

As a team account, the Rockets have a substantial under-21 following. This year, it joined the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising Principles, whose number one rule for responsible gambling advertising is no marketing sports betting to those under legal betting age.

The Rockets later deleted the offending post, but not before it was screenshotted and reposted by many, including website Awful Announcing. It has since gained more than 103,000 views.

“Each member of the coalition feels a responsibility to ensure sports betting advertising is not only targeted to an appropriate audience, but also that the message is thoughtfully crafted and carefully delivered,” the Coalition said earlier this year.

This is a memo that was clearly missed with the latest post between the Rockets and DraftKings.

The Partnership and Its Wider Implications

DraftKings acquired Golden Nugget Online Gaming in 2021 for around $1.6 billion, and part of that deal saw DraftKings partner with the Rockets.

The link was Tilman Fertitta, billionaire investor and founder of the Golden Nugget casino chain, who has also owned the Houston Rockets since 2017.

This relationship provides DraftKings with marketing integrations and sponsorship assets with the team, potentially including social media engagement – as has now backfired in the deleted social media post.

The incident raises questions about the legal and ethical implications of sports teams directly promoting gambling, especially in a state like Texas, where sports betting is not yet legal.

The specifics of the bet also cause concerns about in-game manipulation in a year where a dozen NFL players and a star college football quarterback have been suspended for gambling violations.

One college baseball coach in Alabama was fired after communicating with a baseball betting minor league coach who placed large bets at several Ohio retail sportsbooks.

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