Bettman tells sports betting summit the NHL embraces its relationship with the gaming industry Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · March 29, 2019 at 1:48 pm OXON HILL, Maryland – National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman was not a fan of sports betting. In fact, he told an audience of gaming industry and sports betting community leaders Thursday at MGM National Harbor, he worked on the efforts to pass the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992 when he was general counsel for the National Basketball Association. His views began to change, he said, when Las Vegas became a landing spot for an NHL expansion franchise. But there was still a learning curve. Bettman, speaking on a panel with MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren at the American Gaming Association’s Sports Betting Executive Summit, recalled a conversation the two had about sports betting before the Vegas Golden Knights took to the ice at MGM’s T-Mobile Arena on October 2017. He suggested “a fence be put around the arena” to limit access to nearby casino sportsbooks. Murren asked Bettman if they “should take away everybody’s phones,” in reference to Nevada’s healthy mobile sports wagering business. In other words, the answer was no. Today, Bettman’s attitude – and that of the league – has gotten significantly more acceptive of legal sports wagering. After the U.S. Supreme Court threw out PASPA and opened the U.S. to sports betting expansion, the NHL “got on board,” Bettman said. “Once the Supreme Court ruled, we had to get with the program,” Bettman said. “You either evolve or you become extinct. We decided to take a forward-looking practical approach.” An example of this approach emerged roughly ninety minutes before Bettman’s appearance with Murren, when the NHL announced a strategic partnership agreement with sportsbook operator William Hill US. It is the league’s third such agreement in the past 10 months. Bettman views sports betting as a way to increase fan engagement in the game. In the Golden Knights first season, wagering on hockey in the Nevada increased 80 percent. Hockey wagering is up 40 percent this year over last year. The NHL has four franchises in states were sports betting is legal – Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Ownership in other markets where sports betting headed – such as Washington D.C. – are embracing the opportunity. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis told the summit he plans to open a sports bar and sportsbook in a tavern adjacent to the arena. Leonsis said the sports betting facility would be leased to an operator. Bettman reiterated that neither the league’s franchises nor its ownership would actually own or manage a sportsbook. Bettman said he understands the importance of mobile sports wagering. One of the key opportunities for the league, Bettman said, is in increasing the amount of player and league data. During the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, the NHL tested a puck and player tracking technology during two Golden Knights’ games with the New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks. The league has a goal of utilizing the data produced by the equipment in game broadcasts and virtual or augmented reality experiences – and for sports betting. Bettman said the new equipment can track up to 200 data points per second on players and 2,000 data points per second on pucks. Bettman said the technology, which he hopes to have running next season, could be used for proposition wagering and mobile sports wagering in real time. “We have seen a phenomenal reaction from our fans,” Bettman said. “The new sports betting landscape presents a unique opportunity for the NHL, especially as it relates to fan engagement and utilizing technology and data that are proprietary to our league.” Bettman pointed out during a press conference with William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher that the NHL has never sought an integrity fee from states legalizing sports betting. Instead, the league hopes to sign deals with sports betting operators for access to the league’s proprietary data. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.