February 15, 2019 / 11:09 AM / 4 months ago

California's Sacramento Kings to launch precursor to in-arena sports betting

, toppucFeb 10, 2019; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III (35) dunks the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C (Reuters) - Sports betting is not yet legal in California, but the Sacramento Kings want fans to come as close as they can to the real thing with a new “predictive gaming” lounge.

Starting with the Kings’ home game on March 17 against the Chicago Bulls, some basketball fans will be able to place free “predictions” on game outcomes in the new Sacramento Kings Skyloft Predictive Gaming Lounge, Kings’ owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé is expected to announce on Friday.

“Predictive gaming is incredibly disruptive and will only continue to gain popularity in the NBA and beyond,” Ranadivé said in a statement. “Working with industry leaders like Swish Analytics allows us to test and perfect this technology to give fans the best experience in future seasons.”

It may be the next closest thing to legal sport wagering, without the gnashed teeth and lost money. No other team in the National Basketball Association has a similar lounge for predictive gaming or actual betting.

Legal sports betting is spreading quickly to new states since the U.S. Supreme Court in May overturned a 1992 federal law that had banned the activity almost everywhere outside of Nevada. Eight states currently offer some legal sports wagers, with at least 21 others actively considering it this year.

The Kings’ optimism may face long odds, however, since California is not among the states with legislation introduced this year to legalize sports wagers. Also potentially slowing the roll-out there is a complicated regulatory approval process and concern by powerful tribal casinos about retaining control of gaming.

If and when it does come online, California would mark a major development for the burgeoning U.S. market because of its large population and proximity to Nevada, meaning it could eat into Nevada’s sports betting stronghold in the western half of the country.

Until then, Kings fans will at least get to pretend. Ticketholders in certain sections will get free credits with which to make “predictions” on the game, including margin of victory, total team points, player blocks, turnovers, steals, triple-doubles and more.

Winning “guesses” earn more credits, and the five fans with the highest totals then earn raffle tickets for autographed Kings gear and game tickets.

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Leslie Adler

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