The NHL announced a multiyear agreement to provide MGM Resorts International with data for use in betting.

By Associated Press
October 29, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) The NHL announced a multiyear agreement Monday to provide MGM Resorts International with data for use in betting, the second major U.S. professional sports league to strike a deal with the casino giant since the Supreme Court opened the way to expanded gambling last spring.

Las Vegas-based MGM is the league's first official sports betting partner, just as it is with the NBA and WNBA. That deal was reached in July.

As part of the agreement, MGM gains access to proprietary NHL data that could eventually include puck and player tracking information once that goes through a testing phase. Access to that data will allow MGM to provide customized game details along with betting opportunities for U.S. customers where gambling is legally available.

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The NHL is not getting a cut of gambling profits, but other terms were not disclosed.

''The new sports betting landscape presents a unique opportunity for fan engagement utilizing technology and data that are exclusive to our league,'' NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Fan engagement, technological advancement and innovation are paramount to our progressive approach and will be at the forefront of everything we do.''

MGM and other casino operators are moving aggressively to be able to capitalize on the U.S. sports betting market, which is expanding after the Supreme Court ruled in May that states could take sports bets if they wanted. MGM has made a series of significant moves, including the multiyear deal with the NBA and WNBA.

Earlier this year, bookmaker William Hill reached agreements that allow odds and other promotional efforts at the home arenas of the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the New Jersey Devils.

''We couldn't be more excited to enter into this historic partnership with the NHL,'' MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said.

NHL executive vice president and chief revenue officers Keith Wachtel said being able to provide enhanced data and analytics to MGM will allow ''some creative and unique things that don't really exist in the sport right now.''

''The more data and analytics that a gaming operator can have, the better it will be in enabling them to set odds,'' Wachtel told The Associated Press. ''Whether or not they're using the data for actual purposes of creating prop bets and things like that certainly is something (that's possible). But more importantly, they're going to use it to be able to set odds and proper odds that they're going to be able to create.''

Some leagues, including the Major League Baseball and the NBA, had called for an ''integrity fee'' - essentially, states would give leagues a cut of the money wagered on their games to pay for expanded monitoring of suspicious betting and to protect their intellectual property. The effort has been largely unsuccessful thus far.

''We have no concerns about the integrity of our game, of our players, our officials,'' Wachtel said. ''We've never had an issue. Secondly, the integrity of the sports betting landscape is just as important to the bookmakers, which is why the NHL does not have a discussion and we don't talk about this notion of integrity fees.''

Scott Butera, MGM Resorts' president of interactive gaming and a former Arena Football League commissioner, outlined how the puck and playing tracking data will help bettors.

''If I know one player is faster than the other, if I know one expends less energy than the other, if I know one has a faster slap shot than the other, it gives me information that I can bet,'' he said. ''If I'm betting on who will score the most goals, I have that tool. Ultimately when enough data is collected on that, we'll be able to actually bet on that data itself. So you could have a bet on which player's going to have the highest average slap shot throughout the game.''

Butera said MGM believes expanded sports betting will eventually be available in 25 to 30 states. The 24 U.S.-based NHL teams play in 18 different states, with seven more in Canada. The league is moving toward adding a 32nd team, in Seattle and what would be its 19th state (Washington).

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