Cavs’ J.B. Bickerstaff Issues Warning Amid Ohio Sports Betting Launch

Grant Mitchell
Grant Mitchell
Basketball news


  • The Cavs’ home arena debuted a Caesars sportsbook Monday
  • Bickerstaff is not against nor in full support of sports betting
  • The NFL recently suspended a player for a year for gambling offenses

RocketMortgage Field House, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, debuted a two-story Caesars sportsbook Monday, coinciding with Sunday’s launch of the Ohio sports betting market.

The groundbreaking reveal was welcomed by newfound local bettors but drew skepticism from Cavs’ coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who said that “you can’t help but notice it and see it’s there,” per The News-Herald, when referring to the increase in sports betting commercials and opportunities.

The Cavs were a focal point for Caesars in the pre-launch buildup, with weekly raffles for free tickets until the recent inauguration. Their coach is not disavowing sports betting, but his hesitance is a careful reminder that sports betting is a tricky path to go down.

Dealing with context

The legal hurdles Ohio had to clear before it could launch its legal sports betting market have been covered ad nauseam. 81-year-old Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose ended the tension by placing the state’s first legal sports bet at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, marking a new era for Ohio entertainment.

36 states plus Washington D.C. have legalized sports betting, while others like Vermont and Texas are weighing their options. Proponents and critics have both presented strong cases regarding the debate, although the former is quickly winning out.

“I do think it’s something that moving forward we’re going to have to spend more time on educating ourselves and all of our guys on because we know the downside or the dark side of it,” said Bickerstaff on sports betting. “There are so many things that can lead to trouble, even that you might see as innocent.”

Cleveland’s coach then went on to describe how his role as a coach puts him in a unique position when it comes to dealing with sports betting. He cited a hypothetical example where a fan casually asked him if Darius Garland was going to play after recently injuring his thumb.

Bickerstaff said that his response would be crucial information for bettors and could be used to decide which team they gamble their money on. With the Caesars sportsbook now available for anyone of legal age inside the arena, that hypothetical fan would have near-instant access to a sportsbook ready to accept the wager.

“I’m not opposed to it,” Bickerstaff said. “I think it has to be managed properly and people need to be educated about it.

Monitoring the situation

To the happiness of non-supporters like Bickerstaff, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) has made it an early goal to keep gamblers as safe as possible. It already instructed sportsbooks to use responsible gambling language and emphasize the importance of safe habits during promotions and events. 

A lawyer representing the Cavaliers, Jason Hillman, also spoke to the team about the pitfalls of gambling before the season began in October.

For instance, players nor their immediate family members cannot place bets on NBA games. If they are found guilty of even a single offense, they could face massive repercussions.

Last February, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was found guilty of gambling on three games that occurred while he was away from the team in November 2021. He spent a total of $1,500 and never bet against his team

The result? A one-year suspension from the league and all team activities. He became the fifth player to be suspended from the NFL for gambling offenses, adding to a legacy last marked by Josh Shaw in 2019.

The NBA and NFL have handled various situations differently, but it is safe to assume that the league would institute penalties of a similar magnitude—especially with the widespread influence of online betting sites. 

All 30 NBA teams are already receiving funds from Caesars through its partnership with the NBA.

“We are in the business of making money, and it’s going to put a bump in the finances for everybody, which is what you hope,” said Bickerstaff. “I genuinely believe we are part of the best league in the country of the four major sports. They’re not going to do anything to compromise the integrity of this league.”

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.