NHL Signs 1st Sports Betting Partnership, Caesars and William Hill In-Arena at Prudential Center

NHL

The NHL has signed its first sports betting partnership, a multi-year pact with MGM Resorts International (MGM) that gives the global hospitality and entertainment company access to the “advanced game data” needed to create in-game prop bets on league games; MGM will also gain use of NHL intellectual property (think: logos, consumer data) for use in marketing/promotions. Beginning with the ‘19-’20 season, the NHL will track player positioning and the puck’s movement on the ice; real-time data proprietary to the league, but not exclusive to MGM Resorts. No financial terms were released, but the NHL will not receive a share of sports betting profits or an “integrity fee” as part of the deal.

HBSE (owner of NJ Devils, Prudential Center and Philadelphia 76ers) announced a pair of sports betting partnerships within the last week. It was first revealed that William Hill (WIMHY) is set to open a sports betting lounge (20+ screens) at Prudential Center (no betting terminals, mobile only); as part of the agreement the Devils will show William Hill odds on the world’s largest, in arena, center-hung digital scoreboard during intermissions. Most recently, HBSE publicized a pact with Caesars Entertainment (CZR) for both the Devils and 76ers. Caesars too will have a premium restaurant and bar (aka lounge) at Prudential Center to introduce fans (premium seat holders have access during Devils games) to their “sports betting experience”; the company will promote their “non-sportsbook elements” in Philadelphia, until sports gambling legislation is passed in the state of PA. The deal includes extensive branding for Caesars at both the Prudential Center and Wells Fargo Center (home of the 76ers).

Howie had the chance to meet with Michael Grodsky (VP of Marketing & PR, William Hill) and Michael Marino (SVP Customer Loyalty & Chief Experience Officer, Caesars Entertainment) to discuss data rights, in-arena sports betting, the sport(s) likely to see the biggest boost from widespread sports gambling and what (if anything) the gaming companies can do to self-regulate themselves so fans aren’t inundated with sports wagering ads during games.

Howie Long-Short: The NHL’s announcement of their first sports betting partnership focused heavily on the data rights MGM will assume rights to. How valuable is proprietary league data?

Marino (Caesars): In the long run, if you have a mobile device in everybody’s hand that is betting sports, then the real-time data becomes more interesting. That’s not the case today. In the United States, it’s still a brick and mortar play and mobile is only relevant in one state (New Jersey). So, for now, I don’t think it’s as big of a deal and that’s really the approach we’ve taken at Caesars; we’ll eventually partner with different legal entities too, it’s just a matter of how. So far, local makes a lot more sense for us than (league-wide) national scale (partnerships) does. 

Howie: While it’ll be new for Devils fans, Las Vegas Golden Knights fans got to place bets from inside the arena during their inaugural season last year. William Hill is a sports betting partner of T-Mobile Arena. How did having the ability to place bets during live NHL games impact business?

Grodsky (William Hill): We saw growth (in Nevada) in ice hockey, last year. The Golden Knights strong start helped as they were making our customers a lot of money, but when looked at the data from T-Mobile Arena (home of Golden Knights), folks weren’t just wagering on the event they were attending; they were betting on games across the league.

Howie: What sport is going to experience the biggest positive impact, in terms of viewership/engagement, from widespread legalized sports betting?

Marino (Caesars): I think the one that will benefit most is golf. Golf is a series of micro events; every hole can be its own unique bet. Inside of the big four sports, baseball fits that same description; it’s perfectly set up for betting on 18 micro games. I don’t think you see that in football, basketball is too fluid. Hockey saw an increase in betting because the town (Las Vegas) supported the team, but nothing changed other than the team showing up.

Howie: There are 3 gaming companies referenced in this story alone and it’s safe to assume more will be partnering with teams/leagues; each will be focused on consumer acquisition. Is there anything Caesars and the rest of the gaming companies can do to regulate themselves so that the fans aren’t inundated with ads during games (see: Labour Party’s proposed ban in U.K.)?

Marino (Caesars): DraftKings and Fanduel really upset the industry because every single TV ad during NFL Games was for those two companies; it just got to the point where people didn’t want to see them anymore. For us, it’s about targeting. If you put your brand in a place like Prudential Center, where the fans attending are more likely to be interested in your product, that will work a lot better than buying a bunch of TV ads. We’ve always been much more targeted marketers. We try to be smart about where we spend our dollars to get a return and we try to put our ads as close to the customer that we want, as possible; as opposed to putting it out there for the masses.

Fan Marino: A study commissioned by the American Gaming Association estimated that a “widely available, legal, regulated” sports betting market could be worth $216 million/year in newfound revenue to NHL franchises. Nielsen Sports projected that the increased viewership and fan engagement associated with sports betting could boost the value of media rights, sponsorships, merchandise and ticket sales +3.5% (worth $151 million), the remaining $65 million was attributed to gaming company expenditures; advertising ($24 million), sponsorships ($35 million) and data rights ($6 million).

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Author: John Wall Street

At the intersection of sports & finance.

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