Last week, the National Hockey League named William Hill U.S. – America’s leading sportsbook operator – as an official NHL betting partner of the league.
William Hill U.S. is the American arm of venerable British bookmaker William Hill, which has accepted wagers since 1934. The company’s U.S. division – Nevada’s top operator with more than a hundred brick and mortar bet shops statewide – also runs sportsbooks in Mississippi, New Jersey, and West Virginia.
As part of its deal with the NHL, William Hill U.S. gains access to promotional media provided within NHL markets, along with branding opportunities connected to prestigious hockey events like the Winter Classic and the Playoffs.
Per a joint press release issued to announce the partnership, William Hill U.S. has seen NHL betting on games increase by 38 percent year-on-year during the 2018-19 season.
In the release, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman positioned the William Hill deal as a way to enhance the league’s level of engagement with its fans:
“This new partnership is yet another example of the innovative yet practical approach our League is taking with the emerging sports gaming industry.
We continue to work directly with stakeholders to cultivate relationships across the sports betting landscape.
Partnering with William Hill US, a leader in both the sportsbook and mobile betting marketplace, provides a tremendous opportunity to further fan engagement.”
In a display of corporate synergy, Joe Asher – who serves as chief executive officer for William Hill U.S. – used the same “fan engagement” talking points:
“We are thrilled to become an official sports betting partner of the National Hockey League.
Commissioner Bettman and his team at the NHL have been at the forefront of understanding the opportunities to engage fans through sports betting.
Combined with our existing partnerships with the Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils, we are extremely excited to continue to build our relationship with the NHL.”
The NHL’s deal with William Hill marks the third time professional hockey’s highest level has linked up with a sports betting operator.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to repeal the federal sports betting ban last May, the NHL named MGM Resorts as an official sports betting partner five months later.
The NHL’s agreement with MGM was followed shortly afterward with a similar arrangement with daily fantasy sports (DFS) and sportsbook operator FanDuel.
But while pro hockey’s longtime commissioner currently considers legal sports betting to be a boon to the league, Bettman previously opposed efforts to bring the industry by the boards.
Bettman contended that pro hockey was “inconsistent with sports betting” during a 2012 deposition included in the case of Murphy v. NCAA – which the NHL joined alongside the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA to block New Jersey’s state law legalizing sports betting:
“And I don’t think you need a study to tell you that.
I think if you’re in touch with your games and your fans, you understand it.
I think that when somebody loses a bet, they tend to sometimes confuse their motives in rooting and enjoying the game because if you lose your bet, even though the team you’re rooting for wins, you have a potentially conflicted outcome.”
However, one day after the William Hill deal was announced, Bettman discussed his personal evolution on the issue while appearing at the American Gaming Association (AGA) sports betting executive’s summit:
“Times have changed. What we’ve learned is that (sports gambling) is another point of engagement for the fans.
Ultimately, I think if you’re interested in sports betting, you’re going to have an increased opportunity to engage with the game. If you’re not interested, it shouldn’t impact the way you consume the game.
And if you’re a sports fan who may not necessarily be a hockey fan, it will give you an opportunity, potentially, to sample something new.”