NHL promised $215m betting boost

2 October 2018

The NHL ice hockey league has been told it could benefit by more than $200m (€175m/£155m) per year should it fully embrace sports betting in the US.

Figures from the American Gaming Association (AGA) and Nielsen Sports show the league could see an increase in revenue of $216m, made up from advertising, data, sponsorship and the knock-on effect of greater fan engagement. The new NHL season begins this week, with gamblers in New Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi and Delaware now able to legally bet on the sport for the first time.

The NHL has long been an opponent of sports betting, however, it last year allowed Vegas Golden Knights to become the first major sports team to be located in the US gambling capital.

In August commissioner Gary Bettman said he was open to partnerships that benefitted the league following the repeal of PASPA. Now the AGA has put a figure on how much that benefit could be worth.

"Today’s announcement reaffirms that legal, regulated sports betting will create significant new revenue opportunities for sports leagues,” said Sara Slane, senior vice-president of public affairs for the AGA.

“Much like the NHL’s recent successful expansion into Las Vegas, legal sports betting will continue to expand across the country, bringing with it a $216m opportunity for the league.”

Bettman suggested earlier this year that rights-holders should benefit from wagers being made on their games. However, the AGA's Casey Clark told iGamingBusiness.com that the introduction of integrity fees - or, in essence, a 'betting right' - would prove a negative move.

Clark said: “The results of this study are very clear: Widely available, legal, regulated sports betting will create huge new revenue opportunities for sports leagues like the NHL, without mandating the transfer of revenue from one highly regulated industry to another industry.”

According to Nielsen Sports, greater fan engagement and viewership could boost the NHL’s total annual revenue from media rights, sponsorships, merchandise and ticket sales by 3.5%, producing $151m in new revenue from increased consumption of the league’s products.

Legal sports betting could help the NHL generate an additional $65m in revenue as a result of spending by betting operators and data providers. The study projects that gaming operators may spend $24m on advertising, which will directly increase the league’s rights fees by the same amount.

An additional $35m in sponsorship revenue and $6m in data is also projected for the league and its teams. The NBA has already signed up with playMGM as its official betting partner, while the Vegas Knights last month became the first major US sports team to secure a deal with a sportsbook operator having partnered with William Hill US.

Nielsen Sports surveyed more than 1,000 adult sports fans – including NHL fans – and self-identified sports bettors nationwide to model how a national, legal sports betting market would affect the sports consumption habits of non-bettors, casual bettors and avid bettors, and how this change in consumption would translate to increased revenue.

Last month the AGA and Nielsen Sports issued a report suggesting the NFL could see its revenue boosted by $2.3bn per year through widely available, legal, regulated US sports betting.