The National Hockey League is doubling-down on its business relationships with companies in the gaming industry, announcing Thursday it has formed a strategic partnership with William Hill that makes the bookmaker an “official sports betting partner of the NHL."
The deal with William Hill marks the third partnership the NHL has entered into with a company in the gaming industry since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on legalized sports betting 10 months ago. In October, the NHL and MGM Resorts International agreed to a partnership that provided MGM access to NHL data.
Although William Hill will not have access to the same proprietary data as MGM, the bookmaker in its capacity as an official NHL partner does obtain promotional media and branding opportunities in connection with marquee league events like the Stanley Cup Playoffs and NHL Draft. The length of the deal was not disclosed.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement:
"This new partnership is yet another example of the innovative yet practical approach our League is taking with the emerging sports gaming industry. We continue to work directly with stakeholders to cultivate relationships across the sports betting landscape. Partnering with William Hill US, a leader in both the sportsbook and mobile betting marketplace, provides a tremendous opportunity to further fan engagement."
William Hill Continues Expansion into the U.S.
William Hill is the largest sportsbook operator in the U.S. and has increasingly expanded into the sports betting market throughout the country since the Supreme Court’s decision last May to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that prohibited sports betting beyond Nevada.
Of the eight states that now offer legalized sports betting, William Hill operates sportsbooks in seven and serves as the exclusive risk manager for the sports lottery in Delaware.
"We are thrilled to become an official sports betting partner of the National Hockey League," William Hill US CEO Joe Asher said in a statement. "Commissioner Bettman and his team at the NHL have been at the forefront of understanding the opportunities to engage fans through sports betting. Combined with our existing partnerships with the Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils, we are extremely excited to continue to build our relationship with the NHL."
William Hill has seen a 38 percent increase in betting on hockey in its sportsbooks during the 2018-19 season, according to a release announcing its partnership with the NHL. And according to a recent Nielsen Sports report, NHL betting fans are more likely to wager on all sports beyond their favorite league.
“We appreciate the progressive and collaborative approach of the NHL and are encouraged by the early results," Asher said.
Sports League Embrace Legalized Sports Betting
Fearing the integrity of its games would be comprised, the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB had decades-long policies in place that forbid any kind of relationship with companies in the gaming industry. That ban also extended to its teams and active players.
But following the Supreme Court’s ruling last May, U.S.-based professional sports leagues are now enthusiastic about legalized sports betting, believing wagering on sports increases fan interest and passion. The NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and Major League Soccer have all signed separate marketing partnerships with various gambling companies.
According to a study the American Gaming Association released in October, legalized sports betting may increase the NHL's annual revenue by as much as $216 million. NHL revenues exceeded $4.5 billion last season.
“I think the impacts that we will see from sports betting are more indirect but all positive in that respect of fan connectivity and fanbase growth,” Bettman said in October announcing the NHL’s agreement with MGM.
And individual teams are also reaching sponsorship deals with casinos, including the Boston Red Sox (MLB), Boston Celtics (NBA), New York City FC (MLS) and the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils. MGM is also part-owner of T-Mobile Arena, home of the Golden Knights.
“The way we've structured the framework for the League and the teams, not unlike television arrangements, there is a national component and we provide for the clubs to have a local component," Bettman said. “If you happen to be in a jurisdiction that has sports betting your opportunities are going to be great for the club and the local market.”