On Monday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and MGM CEO Jim Murren announced a “multi-year” deal that identifies MGM as an official gaming partner and an “official resort destination” of the NHL.
The deal, which is non-exclusive, will allow MGM the ability to utilize NHL league and team trademarks in its marketing. Bettman said the pact will also see the NHL’s fan database “merged” with MGM’s Mlife rewards program, enabling cross-marketing offers to both entities’ fans.
Bettman didn’t attempt to mask the fact that the NHL had staunchly opposed legal wagering for years, or the fact that Bettman had been one of the chief proponents of the PASPA federal betting ban enacted in the early 1990s. But the commish said “the world has changed” following the US Supreme Court striking down the federal betting prohibition this spring and the task now was to embrace betting to “provide a vehicle for more fan engagement and connectivity to the game.”
DATA IS THE KEY
The most interesting aspect of the deal is MGM’s access to so-called “enhanced” player data, which Bettman described as “real-time data that doesn’t exist currently.” Bettman said the NHL plans to make this data available by the start of next year’s NHL season.
Bettman said the data development project was begun long before the Supreme Court ruling and was originally aimed at giving the league’s broadcast partners additional content to draw and engage viewers.
Murren said “data is the key” to the NHL deal, adding that “trusted, endorsed, real-time” data is the only thing that bettors will accept. Murren added that the data will help players “build their individual brands” and give fans a greater connection with a player’s “brand equity.”
In August, MGM inked an official gaming partnership with the National Basketball Association that also involved access to proprietary data. Like the NHL deal, that pact was non-exclusive to MGM. Murren said his company “believes in the free market” and wants to win by competing fairly with other operators.
SHARING THE WEALTH
The revenue generated by the MGM deal will be shared 50/50 with NHL players. Bettman stressed that the NHL was “not getting a piece of the book” operated by MGM or any future league partners.
The American Gaming Association issued a report earlier this month that claimed the NHL could generate an additional US$216m in revenue via nationwide betting legalization. Bettman said the impact of legal wagering would be “more indirect, but all positive” in terms of growing the NHL’s fan base.
In September, bookmaker William Hill announced the league’s first team-level gaming partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights, who play their games at MGM’s T-Mobile Arena. Last week, Hills announced a deal to build a “sports lounge” at the New Jersey Devils’ Prudential Center home, which won’t feature actual betting windows but will allow mobile wagering via Hills’ New Jersey betting app.
Asked whether the NHL would permit sports betting kiosks at its arenas, Bettman said there were “opportunities” for building betting-branded venues “in a segregated area” of an arena. But he also said this segregation was somewhat irrelevant if mobile wagering was allowed in any NHL team’s home state.
Unlike some other leagues, Bettman said the NHL had “never pursued” so-called integrity fees from legal betting. Bettman said he had “total confidence” in the integrity of NHL games based on the league’s ongoing monitoring of legal wagering on its product through “third-party resources.”
Asked whether the new betting deal would mean the NHL would adopt an NFL-style injury report, Bettman hedged, saying he was unsure there was “any interest” in making such a change. Bettman further claimed that the league didn’t want players to be “targeted” by allowing opponents to know the specific location of any nagging boo-boos.