NHL Secures MGM as Official Sports Betting Partner

NHL Secures MGM as Official Sports Betting Partner

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman realized that despite his past resistance to it, legalized sports betting represented not only the coming reality of professional sports, but a lucrative new revenue stream.

His concerns assuaged by a collaboration in which the Vegas Golden Knights thrived in their inaugural season in the gambling hub of Nevada last year, the commissioner announced on Monday the league had entered a multi-year data-sharing and marketing partnership with MGM Resorts International that will make the gaming giant its official sports betting partner.

Bettman, who expressed reticence initially with how Las Vegas would mesh with the image he wants the NHL to project, and was once opposed to sportsbooks posting lines on the Knights, said it was “easiest and most sensible” to work with an industry stakeholder the NHL had already vetted through experience. He found that in MGM Resorts chairman Jim Murren.

Still, Bettman’s new tack represented a major reversal.

Something Major Changed for Bettman

“The Supreme Court, obviously,” he said, referring to the May overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. “And I think many of you know this, I was integrally involved in the passage of PASPA 25-plus years ago, but the fact of the matter is the world has changed. The way people consume sports has changed and, frankly, whatever views anybody had a year ago have been changed by the fact the Supreme Court ruled on PASPA and sports betting subject to state enactment has found a new road and a new life.

“I believe there was an opportunity here since it was happening anyway, but more importantly, to the extent this may provide a vehicle for more fan engagement and connectivity to the game, it’s something we had to embrace.”

MGM CEO and NHL commissioner on new sports betting deal from CNBC.

MGM announced a similar non-exclusive deal with the National Basketball Association in July.

“We were in talks with the NHL from the very beginning,” Murren said in a joint press conference. “The deals are different deals. We're not getting into all the details of them. This is a very specific deal with the NHL and it was a product of some really good discussions back and forth, what is collectively important to ourselves and the league.”

(New Jersey) Devils Are In the Details

Under the compact, MGM, which operates resorts in Detroit, Las Vegas, Mississippi, Maryland, and New Jersey, will have access to intellectual property including all 31 NHL logos and “advanced game data” that is in development. Bettman said this data had been originally devised to enhance television or second-screen experience.

"MGM has moved itself to the front of the line in terms of establishing its brand as gambling entities are becoming increasingly intertwined with the major sports leagues," Courtney Brunious, associate director of the USC Sports Business Institute told Gambling.com "The deal makes sense for MGM after reaching a similar agreement with the NBA. It also expands MGM’s reach beyond Las Vegas and into NHL markets where it may not be as strong.

"As this new partnership category gets rolled out to fans, MGM has made sure it has secured its position as the sports gambling provider of choice for whenever that fan’s state creates a legal platform for wagering."

Bettman (above) said teams in states with legalized sports betting were free to secure local sports betting partnerships as they would television packages. He added that players will share half of the proceeds of the partnership as hockey-related revenue which is “fixed, separate and apart” and therefore not predicated on the amount wagered on the NHL.

“We’re not getting a piece of the book,” he said.

Murren said MGM would be the “winner” in the coming sports betting environment because of its brands, relationships, analytics and a loyalty program.

Bettman said there “could be the opportunity in a segregated area” for sportsbooks in arenas – a facsimile branded by partner William Hill is being constructed in the Devils’ Prudential Center – but downplayed the subject by emphasizing that wagering can occur anywhere in arenas in New Jersey and Nevada under their laws.

NHL Joins Sports Betting Mainstream Push

The NHL’s move as a league continued what has been a steady mainstreaming of legal sports betting as teams and leagues vie for new sources of financial backing and audience expansion. The Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens of the NFL have entered into gaming partnerships, as have the New Jersey Devils and Knights in the NHL. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has been an outspoken advocate of sports betting as an additive to fan experience.

“Sports betting agreements through contracts enhance the fan and consumer experience,” Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming Association said in a release. “The NHL’s announcement today further strengthens the bond between sports entities and gaming companies, who are each committed to preserving the integrity of the game. As legal sports betting expands, we are encouraged by the growing relationship between gaming companies and the major sports leagues.”

Bettman cited a study commissioned by the AGA that documented a potential $216 million yearly financial boost from legal sports betting.

"The deal isn’t too surprising, given the existing relationship between MGM and NHL, with T-Mobile Arena as home for the Golden Knights," Brett Abarbanel, director of research at the UNLV International Gaming Institute told Gambling.com. "Another big component of this deal appears to be in the database sharing. MGM can market their properties to the NHL database, and NHL will have access to the MLife database. These kinds of databases are hugely valuable and I’m confident that both parties will see value from this data sharing."