While many professional sports leagues initially scoffed at the idea of opening their doors, and fields, to sports gambling without some type of “integrity fee,” they have found other solutions that are proving to be just as lucrative. The National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the Champions League have already begun to make sponsorship deals that are seeing them take in a serious amount of cash. Another league, the National Hockey League (NHL), has been at the forefront of the deal-making and this is set to produce a significant windfall of income for the league.
The NHL has already partnered with several gambling-related entities. MGM Resorts is its “official sports wagering partner” and FanDuel is now its “official sports betting partner” as of this past Monday. Additional, the New Jersey Devils have a second sponsorship deal with FanDuel and the Vegas Golden Knights have teamed up with William Hill.
Luc Robitaille, the president of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, appeared recently on a ESPN ON ICE podcast and said, “If teams profit, then everybody will profit. If you go by the numbers on the illegal part, it’s pretty significant. If that part ends up on the team side, I think it’s going help everyone. First of all, the [salary] cap will go up. Fans will be happy. Teams will spend more money on players. Players’ salaries will go up.”
The increased revenue to the NHL, expected to be as much as $216 million, won’t just produce more profits and higher salaries; it will also lead to a better fan experience. Robitaille added, “You would think this would help with always putting the pressure on fans to keep paying … hockey is still a ticket business, primarily. Hopefully, that helps offset some of the ticket pricing. I’m not sure about it, but it could if the money is significant enough. There’s a lot that could go around it.”
The executive added a caveat, though, stating, “I’m not going to guarantee it’s going to bring down ticket prices, but it might hold the raise a little bit. If a team plans on raising ticket prices by 8 percent, they might only raise them by 5 or 4 percent. If there’s a lot more money at the table, it makes everybody’s life easier.”