In a joint press conference held in New York City, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman and MGM Resorts International chairman Jim Murren revealed a “groundbreaking” NHL sports betting partnership.
Per Bettman’s comments in a press release issued by the NHL, the multiyear partnership will focus on both marketing and data sharing opportunities:
“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.”
The move represents an abrupt about face for the NHL, which previously opposed a series of efforts to legalize sports betting made by lawmakers and voters in New Jersey over the past several years. The NHL aligned itself with North America’s three other major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, and MLB), along with the NCAA, in filing suit to block New Jersey’s law from being implemented.
The resulting case wound up reaching the U.S. Supreme Court, and in a landmark ruling issued in May, the federal law prohibiting states (other than Nevada) from enacting sports betting regulations was repealed outright.
In the months since states were granted the right to regulate their own sports betting markets, four have done so and successfully launched legal wagering – Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Mississippi. Several other states have legislation passed and implementation pending, progress which has prompted the NHL and other pro leagues to reverse course.
The NBA struck a similar deal with MGM in August, agreeing to share proprietary statistical data and other information as part of a $25 million partnership.
MGM’s agreement with the NHL follows a similar structure, with the league providing proprietary statistical data in exchange for exclusive marketing opportunities.
Hockey fans using the NHL’s official social media accounts will receive advertisements for MGM properties, for example. In turn, MGM receives access to “previously unseen enhanced NHL proprietary game data” which can be used to enhance the NHL sports betting experience for customers.
In a statement, Murren outlined MGM’s vision for a productive partnership with the league for NHL sports betting:
“We couldn’t be more excited to enter into this historic partnership with the NHL.
The League is home to some of the most exciting action in sports, and we are thrilled to join with them to create new immersive and exhilarating experiences for hockey fans.
Combining MGM Resorts’ world-class sports betting operations and technology with the NHL’s top-level competition, iconic brands and cutting-edge data will further transform the rapidly growing sports betting marketplace and solidify our position at the forefront of the industry.”
The agreement will also see MGM “leverage promotional opportunities” across the NHL calendar, with events like the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final, the NHL All-Star Game, and the Winter Classic outdoor game tabbed as prime marketing opportunities.
Despite participating in the New Jersey lawsuit, Bettman and the league have seemingly embraced the sports betting industry over the last two years.
In July of 2016, the league awarded Las Vegas its first professional sports franchise in the Vegas Golden Knights.
Sin City had previously been scorned by pro leagues because of the perceived threat to game integrity caused by an active sports betting market. But following the NHL’s approval, the NFL allowed the Oakland Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas in a move expected to take place ahead of the 2020 season
One month later, the NHL linked up with sportsbook data analytics firm Sportradar to utilize the latter’s Fraud Detection System (FDS), a tool used to maintain game integrity by identifying suspicious gambling activity.