NHL Commissioner opened up on sports gambling after Supreme Court decision
Legal Sports Report

NHL’s Bettman Joins NBA, NFL In Call For National Sports Betting Rules

Bettman NHL betting

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stopped short of fully embracing federal sports betting legislation and integrity fees Monday during media availability at Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Las Vegas.

Bettman certainly did not sound opposed to either, though. He asserted the NHL’s position on sports betting in much clearer terms than the league’s equivocating initial post-PASPA statement.

The quick takeaway: Look for the NHL to take a hybrid position melding parts of what the NFL and NBA want.

Bettman calls for a level legal playing field

Asked if he supports Congress acting on federal sports betting legislation, Bettman mostly endorsed the idea:

“We’re looking for consistency,” Bettman said. “Whether that can be done federally — which would make it easier to make sure (of) the rules of the game, the types of bets that are being placed, how things are being conducted — we’d like consistency and we’d like not to have it vary state-by-state.

“Now if all the states want to come together and do the same thing, that would be the equivalent of federal legislation and that’s something that we’re focused on.”

That places the NHL somewhere in-between its fellow leagues. The NFL called for Congress to pass a new law to replace PASPA in setting nationwide rules for sports betting. The NBA shifted last week from a firm call for federal legislation to advocating a “50-state solution” either in Congress or through state legislatures.

Not about integrity, but NHL wants its cut

Bettman rejected the labeling of the integrity fee, but said the league deserves compensation for its “intellectual property.”

“I’m not sure I buy the term ‘integrity fee’ — I don’t worry about the integrity of our players,” Bettman said. “I think, though, if you’re going to allocate for yourself to run a business on our intellectual property and the performance of our athletes and the platform that we put on for our games, we’re entitled to be involved in that.”

The leagues — believed to be the NBA and Major League Baseball– birthed the idea of integrity fees and the PGA Tour jumped on board. The idea of the fees first appeared in legislation in Indiana and then in a model bill pushed by NBA/MLB in various states. The NFL, however, expressly did not include them in its asks last week.

The intellectual property idea now runs through NFL and NBA comments on revenue from sports betting. The leagues clearly would prefer if no one ever said integrity fee again.

Sports betting sponsorship still on the table

Integrity fees present just one way for leagues to make money on sports betting. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly fielded the question of whether operators will be allowed to sponsor teams.

“That is one of the things we’re looking at,” Daly said. “Obviously the landscape has changed dramatically in the last ten days with sports gaming and what the rules should be. It’s one of the things we’ll take a look at. Obviously nothing is going to happen to the balance of this season but we’ll address what the rules are vis a vis our clubs over the summer.”

Player and puck tracking data could become a future issue for the league as well. Just what rights leagues possess to their data remains an open question. The NHL could implement widespread use of player and puck tracking within a year. Bettman said the league will charge for the information.

“When we started experimenting and developing and testing in player and puck tracking — which based on the speed and action in our game has been no easy feat but we’re getting closer — it was not in anticipation of betting on our game,” Bettman said. “If in fact that does provide data that might provide for interesting betting, if all the circumstances are right we’d have to look at it, but we’re not going to give it away.”

Adam Candee
- Adam Candee covers sports business and news from Las Vegas. Adam is a former editor and reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, Arizona Daily Sun and KLAS-TV.