The NHL announced Monday that MGM Resorts will become its official sports betting partner in a multiyear marketing and data agreement.
The NHL betting partnership is the second such deal for MGM this year. The Las Vegas-based casino giant agreed to a $25 million contract with the NBA in July.
The deal will allow MGM access to NHL “intellectual property,” according to Commissioner Gary Bettman. That includes use of official league data, much of which is still under development.
It also includes database sharing that could boost both companies. Per a joint NHL/MGM statement:
MGM Resorts will also reach NHL fans through communications to subscribers from the NHL’s robust fan database that will market MGM Resorts’ portfolio of destination resort brands, as well as promote MGM Resorts’ M life Rewards program, which currently has 31 million members.
Advanced data key to the deal
The NHL is experimenting with next-generation data including puck tracking and other information that could be used for in-play betting. That data, which the commissioner said first was developed for broadcast enhancement, should be available next season.
“We are here to make an announcement that is both exciting and ground-breaking for our league,” Bettman said. “We’re delighted to let you know that the NHL has entered into our first league-wide sports betting partnership, and we’ve done so with a company that, in many ways, is already part of the NHL family.”
The NHL betting partnership is not exclusive for either marketing or data purposes.
“It’s the first, and obviously because of our long-standing relationship and he number of things we’ve done together, we were most comfortable moving forward together — MGM and the NHL — at this point in time,” Bettman said.
Commercial agreements the preference of gaming
The American Gaming Association praised the NHL betting agreement with MGM. The gaming advocacy group strongly prefers such deals to legislative mandates on revenue and data.
Sara Slane, AGA senior vice president of public affairs, issued a statement:
“Sports betting agreements through contracts enhance the fan and consumer experience. 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 weighed in over the summer
When Legal Sports Report asked Bettman about the league’s stance on sports betting during the Stanley Cup Final in May in Las Vegas. the commissioner took an approach that mixes the views of other leagues:
“We’re looking for consistency. 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 …”
Bettman mentioned Monday that he helped to develop PASPA and said the Supreme Court decision to overturn it changed his stance on sports betting. The NHL joined other pro sports leagues in fighting to keep PASPA in place through the Murphy v. NCAA case.
Integrity fee not a part of the deal
That sounds a bit like the NBA’s course on federal and state legislation. Bettman also slightly distanced the NHL from the integrity fee:
“I’m not sure I buy the term ‘integrity fee’ — I don’t worry about the integrity of our players. 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.”
Bettman dove deeper into the integrity fee issue Monday:
“I think — because a lot of terms get thrown around like integrity fees and the like, which is something that we’ve never pursued — I never worried and I don’t worry about the integrity of our game. The integrity of our game has been strong throughout a period where virtually all of the betting has been not through legal sportsbooks.
But my view was we were the first league in Las Vegas, and we all needed to get a comfort level as to how it was going to work. But we’ve been comfortable from the outset. But again, the integrity that we talk about is integrity in a relationship, integrity as it relates to their sportsbook. But I’ve never expressed an issue about the integrity of our game and our players, for which I have total confidence.”
NHL betting partners past and present
The league partnered with DraftKings during the daily fantasy sports heyday in 2014. The deal made DraftKings the official DFS game of the NHL and gave the league an equity position.
DraftKings expanded well beyond DFS this year. A quick move into legal sports betting under the DraftKings Sportsbook name positioned the NHL, however unwittingly, with a sports betting company.
The NHL also is aligned clearly with a bookmaker through two of its teams. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights agreed to a contract with William Hill in September. That deal includes advertisements inside T-Mobile Arena and in-game activations such as odds posted between periods:
The partnership with the New Jersey Devils will feature an even stronger presence. The deal announced this week includes a William Hill-branded lounge inside the Prudential Center and odds posted inside the arena. There will not be wagering inside the Devils’ lair, but Will Hill can push its mobile app to fans.
Bettman said Monday he does not anticipate a sportsbook inside an arena. The commissioner painted them as irrelevant when mobile betting is widely available.
Just weeks after the PASPA ruling, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly addressed the possibility of such deals:
“That is one of the things we’re looking at. 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.”