Las Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley intimated that some sportsbooks in the city would not take bets on the NHL team’s games, in an interview with ESPN.
What Foley said on sports betting
ESPN talked with Foley ahead of the expansion franchise’s first season. Predictably, the subject of sports betting came up, as wagering on athletic events is legal in Nevada.
Here’s what Foley said when asked about the subject of gambling and pro sports:
Foley: I think gambling is irrelevant to what we’re all about. You can’t gamble in the arena. When we have a game day, we go down on the sports books so you won’t be able to bet on the Golden Knights at some of the local casinos. It just isn’t a factor any longer.
Honestly, there’s gambling all across the country — in Indian casinos, in Atlantic City, Detroit. So it’s really not relevant in our view. We’re just here to play hockey and win hockey games.
Read the whole ESPN interview here.
Parsing Foley’s take on sports betting
First, Foley said “You can’t gamble in the arena.”
However, there is mobile Nevada sports betting, and fans certainly could place bets on any games offered by the books, as things currently stand. (For the sake of argument, he might be talking about casino games or physical sportsbooks, neither of which will be present in the arena itself.)
Next is his statement about games being taken off the boards “at some of the local casinos.” That’s a pretty specific thing to say. He did not say “all sportsbooks,” meaning its feasible that just some bookmakers have agreed not to take bets.
ESPN has reported previously that the NHL has a window that is growing shorter to request that regulators prohibit betting on Golden Knights games. The league has 30 days before an event to request a game is taken off the board. The Knights’ first preseason game is Sept. 17. The first regular season game is Oct. 6.
Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett confirmed Friday morning that no such request had yet been made to the board.
“The books can obviously take bets on any event they wish, as long as it is within our regulations,” Burnett said.
The alternative to the two scenarios above is that Foley doesn’t know that no such mechanism to stop betting on Golden Knights games is in place, which would seem unlikely on its face.
Legal Sports Report has put in inquiries with some Nevada sportsbooks and the state’s gaming control board on the matter.
The NHL’s stance on sports betting
The NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman has not had much to say of late on the subject of legal sports betting in Nevada or its possible proliferation in the US in the future. But here’s what we do know:
- Appearing alongside other commissioners this summer, Bettman downplayed the idea of fixing games.
- In late 2016, Bettman said the sport “doesn’t lend itself to gambling.”
- The Golden Knights are allowed to have deals with casinos that have sportsbooks.
To bet or not to bet
If the NHL requests a blanket ban on betting on Knights games — or if there’s even a partial ban voluntarily agreed to by some books — it would be a setback for legal sports betting in the US.
The point of a legal sports betting market like the one that exists in Nevada is to increase transparency and promote game integrity. A total or partial ban would make it seem like legal wagering is somehow counter to those goals.
We also know there’s a huge black market for betting on sports. Wagering on Knights games would take place at offshore books, whether there’s a Las Vegas ban or not.
Regardless, the world could be changing faster than the NHL and the other pro sports leagues are comfortable with. A win for New Jersey in its upcoming case in front of the US Supreme Court could mean the expansion of sports gambling to states beyond Nevada.