Outside of the Vegas Golden Knights, NHL teams haven’t traditionally attracted a ton of attention from sports bettors. But according to a new study by Nielsen Sports, the league could still see significant benefits from legalized sports betting.

NHL AGA Nielsen study
A study commissioned by the AGA says that the NHL could earn significant revenue from legalized sports betting, thanks mostly to increased fan engagement. (Image: Jeff Bottari/NHLI/Getty)

According to the study, which was commissioned by the American Gaming Association (AGA), the NHL could see annual revenues increase by $216 million per year if regulated sports betting becomes widely available across the United States.

Fan Engagement Will Drive Growth

The study suggests that the NHL would receive some direct benefits from the expansion of sports betting. $65 million of the annual increase will come from gaming related revenue, including the kinds of sponsorship deals that teams like the New Jersey Devils have already started to take advantage of. Advertising and the sale of league data will also bring in money.

But the bigger benefits will come indirectly in the form of improved fan engagement. With more people watching games, the NHL and individual franchises should see increased ticket sales and television viewership, which could in turn help improve the value of media rights and merchandise sales. All told, that could add up to $151 million in new revenues each year.

These numbers come from a survey of more than 1,000 American adult sports fans conducted by Nielsen Sports, and included samples of both sports bettors and non-bettors to get an idea of how habits might change if legalized wagering was widely available.

“Today’s announcement reaffirms that legal, regulated sports betting will create significant new revenue opportunities for sports leagues,” Sara Slane, the AGA’s senior vice president of public affairs, said in a statement. “Much like the NHL’s recent successful expansion into Las Vegas, legal sports betting will continue to expand across the country, bringing with it a $216 million opportunity for the league.”

NFL Betting Boost Dwarfs NHL Benefits

This is just the latest study commissioned by the AGA to examine how the sports betting industry could impact professional leagues in the years to come.

In September, the AGA announced the results of a study that found that the NFL could earn up to $2.3 billion each year due to the direct and indirect impacts of legal sports wagering.

In general, the NFL is expected to experience the greatest benefits as legal sportsbooks open in more states. Previous researched carried out by Nielsen Sports found that not only did the NFL already have the largest percentage of both avid and casual bettors, but it could also expect the largest increase in bettors going forward, with the potential for upwards of 30 percent of all sports fans to place bets on pro football at least occasionally.

By contrast, that same study saw that the NHL’s fans were already the least likely to place a bet, with just seven percent of fans currently describing themselves as either avid or casual bettors. The study suggested that number could rise to eight percent thanks to regulated sports betting.

Still, that hasn’t stopped NHL franchises from becoming leaders in partnering with the gaming industry. The Golden Knights recently signed a multi-year partnership with bookmaker William Hill, while the New Jersey Devils say they expect to earn $5 million this season from agreements with gaming firms.