NHL Follows NBA in Adding MGM Resorts as Official Betting Partner
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The NHL became the second major North American league to announce an official sports betting partner. As with the NBA, the NHL is teaming with MGM Resorts on a non-exclusive deal that includes official data.
MGM’s partnership with the NHL is wide-ranging and also includes designation as the league’s official resort destination, but the data component stands out as the most noteworthy component of the agreement. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said MGM will receive “access to advanced game data which is being developed as we speak,” referring to the league-wide tracking system scheduled to be installed for 2019-20 season.
“Data is the key,” said MGM Resorts chairman and CEO Jim Murren. “The more data a player has, the better. And that data has to be trusted. It has to be specific. It has to be endorsed. It has to be real-time. And we’ve seen the power of data outside the United States. You look at World Cup soccer, for example, in the UK or throughout Europe.”
Industry experts all believe the future of sports betting in the U.S. is on mobile devices, which facilitates in-play wagering. In New Jersey, for instance, mobile wagering is off to a fast start and had already eclipsed brick-and-mortar betting in the month of September. Such fast-paced oddsmaking requires the rapid, reliable dissemination of data.
“The stuff we’re creating, you can’t have and you can’t scrape in real-time,” Bettman said. “And you’re going to need it in real-time.”
When MGM and the NBA announced their deal in July, the two sides had not finalized what data would be included, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver indicated that “some” of the Second Spectrum tracking data eventually would be part of the arrangement, although not immediately.
The NHL will receive a set price from MGM as part of the deal that is not affixed to the amount wagered. The partnership is at the national level, and individual teams will still be free to form their own partnerships, such as the New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights have done recently with William Hill. MGM is part-owner of T-Mobile Arena, home of the Knights, and Murren is often credited for helping bring the NHL to Las Vegas.
While only MGM Resorts will be the official sports betting partner of the NHL, all sports books will be able to purchase access to the league’s data. Murren made a point of saying, “We do not support exclusive data. We want the data to be available to the world.” He added the public release of more data can help build “brand equity” of athletes by enhancing the connection with fans.
A Nielsen Sports report commissioned by the American Gaming Association recently predicated that the NHL could see an increase in $216 million of revenue via legalized sports betting, although Bettman downplayed that number.
“Based on our overall revenues, that’s not a be-all and end-all,” he said. “To the extent that it can create more fan connectivity, more fan engagement and even bring some new fans in, I think the impacts that we will see from sports betting are more indirect but all positive in that respect in terms of fan connectivity and fan-based growth.”
These unprecedented league-wide betting partnerships were made possible by the Supreme Court’s decision in May to strike down PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which prohibited gambling on sports. Bettman had advocated for that law and, as recently as a 2012 deposition, said “the atmosphere that we want people to feel part of, is inconsistent with sports betting.”
Asked what changed, Bettman said with a chuckle, “the Supreme Court, obviously.”
“And I think many of you know this, I was integrally involved in the passage of PASPA 25 plus years ago, but the fact of the matter is the world has changed,” he added. “The way people consume sports has changed, and frankly, whatever views anybody had a year ago have been changed by the fact that the Supreme Court ruled on PASPA, and sports betting, subject to state enactment, has found a new road and a new life.”
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