Deal makes it appear as if NHL will embrace sports betting

Vegas Golden Knights Partner With WillIiam Hill; First Major US Team With Sports Betting Deal

Vegas Golden Knights sports betting

The Vegas Golden Knights are embracing legal sports betting, and that seems to mean that the NHL is on board, as well.

William Hill US announced on Tuesday that it had signed “a landmark, multi-year partnership” with the hockey franchise. That makes it the first team from any of the four major North American sports leagues to ink a deal with a sportsbook operator.

Will Hill said the deal means the sportsbook and the team will “collaborate on engaging with fans of legal betting age through various media, advertising and promotional platforms” including:

  • A TV visible dasherboard
  • In-arena signage.
  • Updated league-wide odds displayed on the in-arena Knight Tron during intermission.
  • Away game watch party.
  • Recognition on the LED ribbon board of the “William Hill Line Change” when the Golden Knights make a line change during the game.

So far, at least, it does not appear that there will kiosk betting via Will Hill at the Knights’ arena, although you can wager online via any number of Nevada sports betting apps.

William Hill continues its sports betting onslaught

Few sports betting operators have been generating as many headlines as William Hill. The latest comes in what appears to be a watershed moment for the acceptance of sports wagering by pro sports leagues in the US.

“We could not be more excited to partner with the Golden Knights.  We are headquartered in Las Vegas and have seen first-hand what this team has done for our community,” said Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US.

“William Hill is the leader in the U.S sports betting market and we are proud of the fact that this is the first sponsorship agreement between a sports book and an NHL team in the country.  We appreciate the leadership of Bill Foley and his Golden Knights management team in bringing a winning franchise to Las Vegas and always working to make the in-game experience the best anywhere.”

Will Hill is live in just about every state with legal wagering, and with more to come. In addition to Nevada, Will Hill has books or deals in place in:

Will Hill also has a deal in place with Eldorado Resorts that will expand its sports betting footprint to even more states.

The Golden Knights and sports betting

The deal makes plenty of sense for the Golden Knights, as well, who play in the most mature sports betting market in the US and near several Las Vegas sportsbooks from its home, T-Mobile Arena. The team started as an expansion franchise for the 2017-2018 season and made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

“We are always looking for innovative ways to engage different segments our fan base and provide a unique fan experience,” said Vegas Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz.

“Like the Vegas Golden Knights, William Hill US is a proud ‘Vegas Born’ organization. This partnership between a major professional team and a sports book operator is a historic, landmark agreement and we are delighted to be leading the way with William Hill in this space.”

William Hill had already signed a deal with a Vegas team in a lower-level US soccer league.

The NHL is now OK with sports betting?

The most interesting part of the equation is that this appears to signal the NHL’s tacit acceptance of legal sports betting. One could argue that the league already did that when the Knights were originally placed in the only state with legal sports betting at the time.

It’s all quite the change of heart for a league that was a part of the Supreme Court case that tried to prevent New Jersey — and by default the rest of the country — from having legal sports gambling options.

Earlier this year, Commissioner Gary Bettman called for federal regulation of sports wagering, although that’s not much closer to happening today than it was months ago. Here is what Bettman had to say back in 2012:

“[N]ew Jersey’s contemplated sports betting scheme threatens serious and irreparable harm to the NHL, harm that cannot be remedied or compensated for by any amount on monetary damages,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wrote in a legal filing in the case on Aug. 9, 2012.

Other leagues and gambling

The NHL has not officially signed onto the effort led by the NBA and Major League Baseball that leagues should be paid so-called integrity fees or royalties from sports betting operators in the US. But here is what Bettman told Legal Sports Report in June:

“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.”

It’s the latest move forward in deals between teams, leagues and casinos, however:

That’s not to mention the dozens of teams that have deals with FanDuel and DraftKings for daily fantasy sports. Now, FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook are up and running in New Jersey, although the team deals do not in theory cover marketing for their sports betting operations.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.