NHL’s initial opposition to sports betting
For many years, the National Hockey League (NHL), along with other major sports leagues – the NBA, NFL, MLB and the NCAA, was staunchly against legalizing sports betting.
There were lengthy legal battles on the issue in which they fought tooth and nail. Eventually, they met with defeat at the final stage in front of the Supreme Court, which voted its approval to end the federal ban on sports betting.
This was the end of any hope of resisting sports betting in the US. Therefore, the major sports leagues, including the NHL, began to look at ways in which they could get their own slice of the action.
Major sports leagues’ moves
Since the ending of the federal ban, many states have made sports betting legal. Dozens of other states are also on the road to doing so.
The MLB, NBA and PGA Tour have been seeking integrity fees from sports betting operators. This would be a slice of every sports bet on one of their given events. No state has yet included the integrity fee in a final draft of their bill.
Most of the major sports leagues have gotten on board with official gaming partners. The NCAA is the only major sporting organization that does not want anything to do with legal sports betting. It has concerns about integrity issues, with unpaid college athletes potentially being lured to engage in match-fixing.
NHL’s sports betting stance
At the start of November, the NHL went into partnership with MGM Resorts as its official gaming partner. This allows the MGM Resorts to use the NHL logo in a lot of its advertising and it gains access to exclusive league data.
MGM’s exclusive access to data comes from devices that are in the actual puck during NHL games, as well as a sensor in the players’ shoulder pads. This will help provide instant data for MGM’s live betting offering. This could be something that other sports leagues begin to do themselves. In return, MGM will help the NLH with its integrity monitoring systems.
At the same time, NHL also entered into a partnership with FanDuel. This is one of the leading sports betting operators in the space today in the US. The large European bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair has majority ownership of FanDuel.
Now the NHL has gotten on board with William Hill, which will be another official sports betting partner of the league. Under the deal, the NHL will earn marketing revenue in return for William Hill being able to use NHL logos in its advertising campaigns.
None of the fine print of the deal has yet come to light. William Hill is establishing itself well in the nascent sports betting market. It has a presence in all of the states where sports betting is currently legal.
William Hill also is in a major partnership with El Dorado Resorts, which positions it well for when more states make sports betting legal. It already has partnerships with two NHL teams – the New Jersey Devils and the Vegas Golden Knights.
What do these partnerships mean?
Over time, it is inevitable that the majority of teams will get on board with sports betting companies. The sponsorship revenues are potentially lucrative. They can also set up sportsbooks at their arenas and give back to fans in a variety of ways.
Los Angeles Kings’ president, Luc Robitaille, said: “If teams profit, then everybody will profit. If you go by the numbers on the illegal part, it’s pretty significant. If that part ends up on the team side, I think it’s going help everyone.
“First of all, the [salary] cap will go up. Fans will be happy. Teams will spend more money on players. Players’ salaries will go up.”
According to a report from Nielsen Sports, the NHL could earn an extra $216m each year thanks to legal sports betting. About $65m of this sum would be through gambling-related advertising.
Fans will start to benefit from promotional activities and loyalty programs where they can earn tickets to games and merchandise signed by the players when partaking in competitions.