With National Hockey League (NHL) teams continuing training camp and other preparations for the 2016-2017 season, the league itself is busy bolstering its oversight capabilities ahead of the 2017-2018 campaign.
Next season will see the NHL expand to 31 franchises, but for the famously expansion-happy league, the new team’s placement in Las Vegas, Nevada has necessitated an especially cautious approach.
In order to address concerns that sports betting may impact the first professional franchise based in Nevada – one of two states in the U.S. to offer legal sportsbooks – the NHL has partnered with data-tracking servicer Sportradar to monitor sports betting patterns within the hockey gambling market.
The agreement represents an expansion of the NHL’s previous deal with Sportradar – a Swiss-based multinational which works with sports leagues worldwide to monitor betting markets for irregular activity. Sportradar was already contracted with the NHL, along with America’s other “big four” sports leagues in the NFL, NBA, and MLB, to provide game data tracking and analytics.
Specifically, the NHL will now rely on Sportradar’s proprietary Fraud Detection System (FDS) to analyze sports betting data generated both by Nevada’s brick and mortar sportsbooks and offshore online betting sites.
By tracking the patterns, trends, and outliers within betting data from more than 550 individual sportsbook operators, Sportradar’s FDS platform is built to identify irregularities which may point to potential game-fixing, point-shaving, or other forms of corruption in sport. In a statement announcing the expanded partnership, Andreas Krannich, who serves as managing director of integrity services for Sportradar, expanded on the scope of FDS:
“Our award-winning FDS monitors over 100,000 matches across 12 sports around the world each year and we are delighted the NHL has chosen this system, that oversees all relevant operators and markets, to bolster its integrity defenses.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman issued a press release to clarify the intent behind the league’s arrangement with Sportradar:
“While we have the utmost confidence in the integrity of our sports and our games, Sportradar’s Fraud Detection System provides an additional layer of security and protection.”
Bettman’s emphasis on providing “security and protection” pertaining to possible sports betting malfeasance represents a shift in his philosophy on the contentious topic.
In June the league’s Board of Governors voted 30-0 to award the NHL’s first expansion franchise since 2000 to Las Vegas – a city which has historically been boxed out of professional sports because of concerns that close proximity to sports betting may influence players to fix games or otherwise influence results.
At the time, Bettman expressed little hesitation over the sports betting culture in Las Vegas:
“We don’t worry about the integrity of our game, I’m more focused on the atmosphere in the arena, and that’s something we’re comfortable with going forward. While we know gambling is part of the industry in Las Vegas, we’re not going to make it all that easy for you to pick up a ticket, a gambling ticket, on your way into the arena.”
In partnering with Sportradar – which already monitors sports betting data for the German Ice Hockey League and International Ice Hockey Federation – Bettman has signaled that the NHL’s league-wide view on the matter has become more proactive and prevention-oriented with the still unnamed Las Vegas franchise just over a year away from taking the ice for the first time.