NHL’s Thoughts On Legal Sports Betting

Here at www.LegalSportsBetting.com we like to keep you informed of what professional sports leagues think about legalizing sports betting. This page is dedicated to what the NHL’s position is when it comes to legal sports betting, including the NHL commissioner’s thoughts on the matter.

Now more than ever, it really seems like it is just a matter of time before sports betting in the United States is legalized, but the NHL is still uncertain about what they want. With the impending SCOTUS reversal or GAME Act repeal of the anti-gambling Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), America’s major sports leagues have been more or less put on the hot seat to take a firm position on what legal sports betting might mean for their business models and fan bases.

While the NBA, MLB, and NFL have all taken strong but disparate stances regarding the matter, the National Hockey League has been a bit harder to read. Being the least popular of the major American sports leagues, the NHL tends to fly under the radar a lot of the time. That said, there are whispers here and there, and there’s enough to work with to piece together what the NHL likely thinks about all this.

What Is The NHL’s Position On Legal Sports Betting?

Given that the commissioner of the NHL is Gary Bettman (Bettman!), you’d think he’d be all about getting rid of PASPA. Unfortunately, however, his name is neither serendipitous nor ironic, because Gary Bettman – as the leader of the only big sport played on a giant slab of ice – is decidedly lukewarm on the idea of legal sports betting. It truly seems like he can take it or leave it. So regardless of what happens, he definitely won’t be the loudest voice in the room for or against either contingency.

When asked for his thoughts on the matter, Bettman did a bit of a dance, saying that for the NHL, sports betting is “probably an entirely different focus than, say, football or basketball… Our game doesn’t lend itself to gambling in the same way…” Then, the commissioner went on to say that it was basically a moot point to begin with, as the NHL comprises around one to three percent of the wagering action played on American sports. It seems that Bettman simply believes that hockey has no real stake in the sports betting industry. He is, of course, incorrect.

How Would Legal Sports Betting Benefit The NHL?

There is one overwhelming way that legalized sports betting would help the NHL: brand awareness. To put it bluntly, the league desperately needs a leg up in the overall ratings arena. Hockey, by its very nature, isn’t quite as accessible as the other major US sports. Fortunately, the NHL has an extremely passionate core fan base, and its live game turnout is certainly adequate. Where the league suffers is with comparative broadcast saturation, as they haven’t got near the advertisement market that the other sports enjoy. Increasing the scope of sports betting could alleviate that, making otherwise passive or disinterested viewers suddenly much more interested in the outcome of a given hockey game or in-game prop bet. More viewers means more fans. More fans means more business. More business means more money. It is really that simple.

Will The NHL’s Expansion Into Las Vegas Affect Its Stance On Legal Sports Betting?

While Bettman has denied up and down that the expansion Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific Division, Eastern Conference) will usher in a new approach to sports gambling for the league, it seems inevitable that there will be a substantial bit of financial comfort by association once the 2017-2018 season gets underway.

The Golden Knights will be playing on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada, and though the league claims that its fan base in the area is not predicated on gambling tourist traffic, there is nothing in Las Vegas that exists wholly apart from that influx. It’s true that T-Mobile Arena will not be offering any gambling kiosks on site (at least at first), but that doesn’t really matter when the stadium itself is surrounded on all sides by dozens or hundreds of such gateways. Additionally, most sportsbooks take mobile online bets within the state of Nevada, so every patron in the place will have a town’s worth of bookies in his or her front pocket or purse.

All it’s going to take for the NHL to wise up to legal sports betting will be a season or two of impassioned bettors and fans cheering the home team on while they each spend more money exploring and experiencing one another’s favorite pastimes.

What’s On The NHL’s (Sport)Radar For Legal Sports Betting?

Perhaps the best indication that the NHL isn’t antagonistic to the idea of sports gambling is that, for the last three years now, the league has employed the Swiss firm Sportradar to track and catalog betting line trends and aberrations. The NHL isn’t interested in this data for nothing, that’s for sure. The league also owns equity in the daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings, which further underscores their potential openness to legal sports betting.

All in all, it doesn’t really matter how noncommittal the NHL is in all this. At the end of the day, it appears that Bettman and company are fully satisfied to go along with the majority of the pro sports community, whichever path that majority ends up taking. And right now, that path seems very much like a breakaway to legalized sports betting and the elimination of PASPA.

It may not even matter who the state has in the net.