Ever since the legalization of sports betting, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has become more accepting of wagering on sports.

  • The NHL was one of the major sports leagues that tried to stop New Jersey from offering sports betting.
  • Commissioner Bettman has given an indication that the new player-puck tracking system could help in developing NHL player prop bets.
  • The NHL now has partnerships with FanDuel, William Hill, and MGM Resorts.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Recently, it seems as though the NHL has tried to seize any sports betting opportunity it can get its hands on. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

The NHL was one of the major sports leagues that went to challenge New Jersey in court after the state tried to implement its own sports betting laws in 2012.

It was that case precisely that saw an end to the federal ban on sports betting known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and made it possible for any state in the country to legalize the activity.

This week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman explained how his stance and the league’s stance on sports betting has changed throughout the years during the G2E Conference presented by the American Gaming Association.

“The concerns we had at 10,000 feet had nothing to do with the integrity of the game. It had to do with atmospherics… and the practical element as to how this was all going to work. Once the Supreme Court ruled, we got to get with the program. And frankly, as a practical matter, I owed it to our fans – I owed it to our clubs – to embrace the evolving world, whether it’s sports betting or changes in technology. In this day and age, you either evolve or you become extinct,” said Bettman.

Since PASPA was repealed in May of 2018, the NHL has become much more involved with the growing industry.

The NHL now has three partnerships with three different sports betting companies. The first partnership was formed with MGM resorts in October of 2018. Only one month after that, the NHL signed a multi-year deal with FanDuel. The league’s most recent sports betting partnership came in March with William Hill.

The NHL’s partnerships have been part of their overarching strategy to get involved in sports betting legislation for each state that is considering signing sports wagering into law.

“Unless you have a relationship and are jointly seeking legislation, there’s no shot of legislation getting passed. We’ve embraced the industry cooperatively,” said Bettman.

Bettman’s reasoning for the leagues changing stance in sports betting was also discussed in an interview with CNBC earlier this week as well.

“If sports betting interested hockey fans, we wanted to provide them that opportunity. And if you’re not a hockey fan yet – you’re just a sports fan that wants to place a bet – we may turn you on as a new fan,” said Bettman.

Taking the chance to further engage existing fans and to capture new fans of the NHL can also be seen by initiatives of individual teams in legal sports betting markets.

Last month, the Philadelphia Flyers partnered with Rush Street Interactive making the company an official sponsor of the team and Wells Fargo Center, the arena in which they play their home games.

The New Jersey Devils struck a similar deal with William Hill in October of 2018, making the international bookmaker an official partner of the team and Prudential Center.

As of now, 17 states outside of Nevada have legalized sports betting in some capacity and each of them allows betting on NHL games. More are expected to join that list in 2020, so it only seems natural that the league and Bettman continue to embrace a changing landscape for sports fans of all types.

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