Gary Bettman announced this morning that the NHL is partnering up with MGM Resorts as the first official sports betting partner of the NHL.
It’s pretty obviously the world of sports betting/fantasy sports has completely taken off since Draft Kings and FanDuel came into the picture. The popularity of sports is changing very quickly and I’m glad the NHL isn’t afraid to make the leap. Starting with a team in Vegas and now this partnership, the NHL is making all the correct moves in promoting and evolving the sport in the necessary direction. I know Gary gets a lot of flack for his actions as GM, but I have to give him credit here.
The NFL will always be top dog in the sports gambling world with its unique weekly schedule and their point scoring system, but the NHL should continue to mirror every move the NFL makes when it comes to fantasy and gambling. Promoting the fantasy and gambling aspect of the game will allow the league to expand and gain popularity with new fans while also allowing these fans to develop a relationship with the game that they didn’t have before.
A huge problem that the NHL has in terms of gaining popularity is player relationships with their fans. The NFL has the popularity of the sport, along with college football, and the individual player fantasy game. The NBA can also build player relationships in college, which allows fans to follow their careers into the pros. The NHL has too many outlets that lead into the the show. With the various junior leagues, European leagues, and NCAA, there is no way to grab the player storyline. Gambling through fantasy and being allowed to bet will help casual fans develop that player and team relationship. So this partnership with MGM and the NHL is about much more than gambling. It’s a huge part in how the NHL can grow the game.
Last week I came across a link in which states that the NHL will gain over 200 million dollars with the legalization of sports gambling. I highly recommend this read (link is below) since the future of the sports/fan relationship will be highly dependent on the availability of gambling on the game. I know “old school” fans will have a tough time swallowing this reality, but it makes sense. Being able to gamble and to build fantasy teams finally gives the fan the opportunity to become the GM they always wish they could be. So I applaud Commissioner Bettman on this one. He definitely deserves all the criticism that he gets, but when it comes to embracing the relationship between the books and the league, he is moving the league in the right direction.