Once again, a professional sports league is bringing legalized sports betting into its corner.
In a Monday press conference, the NHL announced that MGM Resorts International will become the league’s official sports betting partner. Per the press release, the deal represents “a groundbreaking, multi-year strategic relationship in the sports betting category.”
While “groundbreaking” for the NHL, this becomes the second such partnership for MGM, which inked a similar deal with the NBA in July.
From NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:
“The new sports betting landscape presents a unique opportunity for fan engagement utilizing technology and data that are exclusive to our League. As a leading global gaming operator and entertainment company, MGM Resorts is the perfect partner for us to begin our transformative entry into this space. Fan engagement, technological advancement and innovation are paramount to our progressive approach and will be at the forefront of everything we do.”
Data and databases included in the deal
Courtesy of its partnership with the NHL, MGM will have access to “intellectual property,” which includes official league data. The deal also features database sharing between the two organizations.
The league, via its “communications to subscribers from the NHL’s robust fan database,” will market MGM’s variety of brands. That includes the company’s M life Rewards program, which boasts 31 million members.
Additionally, NHL data, including puck tracking that the league expects to roll out next season, will become available to MGM. Such information would allow for more in-play wagering. MGM will also have access to logos and trademarks for all 31 teams.
That said, this partnership is not exclusive for marketing or data purposes.
AGA on board
A month ago, a US House subcommittee gathered to discuss the viability of federal government getting involved in legalized sports betting. Naturally, the American Gaming Association led a staunch opposition to such inclusion.
The NHL-MGM partnership — along with MGM’s deal with the NBA — is more acceptable, and beneficial for all.
In a statement from AGA Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Sara Slane:
“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.”
The NHL joined other pro leagues and the NCAA to fight New Jersey in a battle for legalized sports betting. Eventually, the US Supreme Court decision in that case struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Bettman actually had a hand in creating the PASPA legislation. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court decision changed Bettman’s position on state-sanctioned industries such as NJ sports betting.
On top of that, Bettman downplayed the necessity of integrity fees.
“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.”
Will not impact individual team sponsorships
Bettman assured that Monday’s announced partnership with MGM will not impact the individual sponsorship deals of its teams.
Bookmaker William Hill US has recently teamed with two franchises: the Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils.
Specifically, its partnership with the Devils features the installation of a William Hill-branded lounge inside the Prudential Center in Newark. The bookmaker can use that space to market its mobile app, which allows fans to bet from their seats. However, there will not be any betting windows or kiosk wagering available.
Bettman said in Monday’s press conference that he does not envision sportsbooks taking up real estate within NHL facilities.