The NHL stirred up a bit of controversy by becoming the first major professional sports league to launch a franchise in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights are set to enter the league with the 2017-2018 season and a new Sports Illustrated article has revealed the NHL will allow the franchise to have sponsorship deals with casinos that have sportsbooks.
It’s not uncommon for teams to have sponsorships, in fact it is necessary to run a successful franchise, but this proposed sponsorship is different in that it involves the ‘taboo’ industry of sports gambling. Some Daily Fantasy Sports groups like FanDuel and DraftKings have advertised in NHL arenas, but nothing quite like this. The major professional sports leagues have long been against sports betting, going so far as to take legal action against states like Oregon and New Jersey for attempting to push state-regulated sports betting. Nevada is the only state in the country that has brick-and-mortar sportsbooks that offer fully-fledged sports betting lines. This is the main reason for the controversy for the NHL bringing a team there. The NFL has recently followed suit by relocating the Raiders to Las Vegas. This move, by both leagues, is interesting because these two leagues have been the most vigilant against legalizing sports betting, yet they are the first two to have franchises in Sin City.
It’s worth noting that the NHL isn’t fully embracing United States sports betting. Any and all advertisements from this sponsorship would be subject to approval by the league. The term ‘sports betting’ won’t be allowed to be explicitly mentioned and the league doesn’t want advertisements online next to score lines. Basically, the league is allowing for this sponsorship but they don’t want to promote sports gambling outright. The NHL also has the right to push Nevada’s governing body to force Vegas sportsbooks to not offer betting lines on the Golden Knights. If the league chose to do this, they would have to do so by 30 days prior to the Knights’ inaugural game. There are betting lines for NHL games (along with games from the NBA, NFL and MLB) offered at certain sportsbooks, so Vegas gambling experts don’t see any reason why the league would make the Golden Knights unavailable. If anything, betting on them would build more hype around the team, which league commissioners hope sports betting will do anyway.
The NHL and NFL’s recent moves point towards a revolution within the American sports betting market. As mentioned earlier, the MLB and NBA have already come out in support of legalizing sports betting. The two leagues will likely push for a Vegas franchise in light of these developments, making Vegas a sports town. Sports betting has been considered illegal in all but four states since 1992 thanks to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), but there has been progress made by states and the professional sports leagues that hints at a change in thinking. The Golden Knights are a historic team in several ways, and the NHL’s openness to sponsorships with casinos could open the door to similar deals for the NFL, MLB and NBA. Only time will tell if betting lines will be open on the new franchise, but the consensus is there will be a new team to bet on come the start of the season.