In a collaboration as natural for the Vegas Golden Knights and William Hill as it could be influential for the sports and gaming industries, the National Hockey League team this week became the first major professional sports franchise in the United States to form an official sports partnership with a sportsbook.
London-based William Hill, which runs its American operation from Las Vegas, seems poised to create an immersive wagering experience that will change how fans interact with live Knights games and other sporting events elsewhere.
In the process it figures to take a prime position over previous Knights local casino partners such as MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts and Caesar’s Entertainment not only because of increased branding throughout T-Mobile Arena, but with a link to a product being played out before fans in the seats and in other arenas.
Notable among the typical signage buy will be the display of live odds on a video board over the ice and a “William Hill line change” that will be announced in conjunction with a Knights player substitution once a period. Negotiations are underway to slip the double-meaning tagline into radio broadcasts.
William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher told Sports Business Daily that he believes Knights fans are already “sitting at T-Mobile and betting between periods. … We're hoping to be able to get more people to our site because the brand will be right there in front of them.">
Even though such betting was available on both the Golden Knights and other sports in the arena during team’s almost record breaking inaugural season, NHL rules prohibited teams from officially partnering with sportsbooks until an acknowledgment on Tuesday from league deputy commissioner Bill Daly that the league had moderated policy.
The Knights had been therefore unable to mention, much less capitalize on its relationship with William Hill previously.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had said when the franchise was awarded in 2016 that the league was “not going to make it all that easy for you to pick up a ticket, a gambling ticket, on your way into the arena” despite culture of the city and the arena’s proximity to numerous casinos.
The Knights were prepared when the NHL position changed.
"We have a really unique marketplace because of all the gaming companies located here, so from day one this category has been one of our key targets," Golden Knights President & COO Kerry Bubolz told Sports Business Daily.
"Even though we couldn't promote the sportsbook component with our gaming partners, we were fortunate to be able to develop significant relationships that … helped us learn how they view the (sportsbook) space and what's important to them."
The NHL’s stance change follows the May striking down by the Supreme Court of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which now allows states to regulate sports betting and for teams in those states to acquire sports book sponsors.
Among those states already offering sports betting is New Jersey – the Devils play in Prudential Arena in Newark – and team officials said in a Bloomberg report that sportsbook and casino sponsorships should yield around $5 million this season.
Mobile sports betting debuted in New Jersey earlier this month. William Hill plans to offer wagering in Pennsylvania - home of numerous professional teams – but legislators have yet to finalize a format for a rollout there yet.
A District of Columbia council member this week introduced a bill for legalized sports betting that would mobile wagering. The district has no casinos.
Ted Leonsis, chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns multiple teams including the Washington Capitals and Wizards has been an advocate of expanded cooperation with the gambling industry.
The NBA signed MGM Resorts International as its first gaming partner in July. The Dallas Cowboys this month announced a sponsor partnership with Oklahoma-based WinStar World Casino and Resort.