The NHL has announced that MGM Resorts will be its first official sports betting partner, making it the second major professional sports league in the United States to strike a deal with the gaming operator.
The NBA announced a similar deal with MGM in September, making the firm its “official gaming partner.”
Non-Exclusive Deal is ‘Major Sponsorship’
Unlike the NBA agreement, this deal is not exclusive, meaning that the NHL can reach agreements with other casinos, sportsbooks, or gaming brands as well.
The deal gives MGM access to non-exclusive data rights, allowing the company to have the fastest possible official data streams for in-play betting. MGM will also be allowed to use the logos of the leagues and its teams at their sportsbooks. The company’s properties will now be considered NHL-sponsored resort destinations as well.
Members of MGM’s M Life loyalty program will also see benefits, as they will gain opportunities to attend programs at major NHL events like the Stanley Cup Final and the All-Star Game.
“This is why I said this is broader than just a sports betting relationship,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said at a press conference announcing the agreement. “This involves us having a major sponsorship with each other.”
NHL officials believe that legalized sports betting can drive fan engagement, which in turn can increase revenues. According to a report released earlier this month by the American Gaming Association, the NHL could see revenues increase by more than $200 million a year if sports betting spreads across the United States.
Benefits for League and Individual Teams
The league is earning revenue from the partnership itself, but it won’t be getting any money from bets placed in its games. Instead, the league is positioning itself to take advantage of other benefits sports betting can bring to the table.
“I think the impacts that we will see from sports betting are more indirect but all positive in that respect of fan connectivity and fan base growth,” Bettman said.
Some individual franchises have already found betting partners of their own. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and the New Jersey Devils have existing partnerships with William Hill. Bettman says that the new deal with MGM should have benefits in markets with legalized betting as well.
“The way we’ve structured the framework for the League and the teams, no unlike television arrangements, there is a national component and we provide for the clubs to have a local component,” he said. “If you happen to be in a jurisdiction that has sports betting your opportunities are going to be great for the club and the local market.”
The NHL is also somewhat unique in that it has a heavier Canadian presence than the other major North American professional sports leagues. There are currently seven NHL franchises in Canada, and the new deal applies to them as well. However, it will likely have a limited impact north of the border, where parlay sports betting is available in several provinces, but single-game betting is not.
One concern that has repeatedly come up since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year is whether expanded sports betting could threaten the integrity of competitions. According to NHL executive vice president Keith Wachtel, however, the league doesn’t share these worries.
“We have no concerns about the integrity of our game, of our players, our officials,” Wachtel told the Associated Press. “We’ve never had an issue. Secondly, the integrity of the sports betting landscape is just as important to the bookmakers, which is why the NHL does not have a discussion and we don’t talk about this notion of integrity fees.”