Among the pro sports leagues, the NBA is often credited with being the trailblazer when it comes to sports betting.
Another first between pro sports leagues and casinos
After a teaser late last week, Monday brought the joint announcement from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and MGM Resorts Chairman & CEO Jim Murren that the NHL and MGM have entered into a “multi-year strategic relationship in the sports betting category”. The non-exclusive agreement makes MGM the NHL’s first official sports betting partner.
As in their agreement with the NBA, MGM is agreeing to eventually utilize “official league data” when grading wagers on NHL contests. More from the official press release:
As part of the relationship, MGM Resorts will receive access to previously unseen enhanced NHL proprietary game data that will be generated by the League’s state of the art tracking systems currently under development. Access to this data will allow MGM Resorts to provide its customers with specialized NHL game insights, as well as unlocking new and innovative interactive fan engagement and betting opportunities for its U.S. customers wherever legally available.
The end result for the bettor is that MGM will apparently offer a full array of in-game betting options for NHL games in part based on reported forthcoming innovations such as puck tracking and other advanced statistics regarding player performance. NHL Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Keith Wachtel alluded to the fact that the league’s new enhanced data collection initiative — originally developed with the idea of supplementing game broadcasts — is certainly implementable in sports betting scenarios as well.
The partnership doesn’t preclude the NHL’s clubs from striking individual agreements with casino operators at the team level.
Agreement symbolic of leagues’ shifting strategy on fees?
And then there’s the legislative angle to the whole situation.
With apologies to the NFL – which still is keeping sports betting at arm’s length compared to their basketball and hockey brethren — the NBA and now NHL seem to be growing quite adept at the good, old-fashioned end-around. Repeatedly rebuffed by state legislators (with the prominent voices of sportsbooks making plenty of noise behind them in the peanut gallery) in their quest for both integrity and data usage fees, the NBA and NHL appear to have found another means to an end in their deals with MGM.
While the respective partnership deals the casino has signed with the two leagues over the last 90 days extend beyond just remuneration for official data usage, that is undeniably a component of each. A win is a win, as they say. Both leagues have at minimum set a precedent – albeit through a commercial agreement – for compensation with respect to their official statistical information.
Naturally, that guarantees nothing for the leagues on the legislative front. However, if more gaming industry heavyweights jump on board with similar agreements, the leagues could essentially reach their objective on the “getting a cut” front without having to hassle with state legislatures across the country over the next several years.