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NHL leverages player-tracking data to land MGM sports betting partnership

The NHL is following in the footsteps of the NBA by naming MGM Resorts International as its Official Sports Betting Partner.

The multi-year, non-exclusive deal – announced in New York on Monday – is centred around the NHL’s new technology platform that will give the gaming operator “previously unseen enhanced proprietary game data”, specifically puck and player tracking, that can be used for in-play betting.

The platform, which is still in development and was originally intended to enhance game broadcasts, will be tested this season and is due to be ready for use next year.

“The [advanced data] we’re creating you can’t scrape in real time – and you’re going to need it in real time,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters.

Bettman reiterated that the NHL, unlike the NBA, is not pursuing “integrity fees” from state or federal legislation. Bettman had once been staunchly opposed to sports gambling; when asked what changed, he responded: “The Supreme Court.”

“Over the next two, three years, there’s going to be a tremendous amount of evolution, in terms of the number of states [legalizing sports betting], whether Congress decides to enact something,” he added. “Certainly in the short term, this is the approach that we think works.

“There was an opportunity here since [legalized sports betting] was happening anyway but, more importantly, to the extent this may provide a vehicle for more fan engagement and connectivity to the game, this was something we had to embrace.

“One of the benefits of us having a direct relationship, as opposed to waiting for either federal or state legislation that may or may not come, is we have the ability to have input exactly on what’s being bet on to make sure we’re comfortable with the types of bets that are being placed on our game.”

Unlike the data-sharing deal with the NBA, MGM is not providing the NHL anonymous access to real-time sports betting transactions. “I don’t worry about the integrity of our game and our players. We were the first team in Las Vegas [with the Golden Knights],” Bettman said. “We monitor all of the games anyway through third-party resources.”

Bettman said revenues from the partnership, which were not disclosed, will be split 50-50 with the players. He added that adding sports betting kiosks in NHL arenas are unlikely due to the existence of official gaming mobile apps, such as playMGM.

MGM, for its part, will be able to access official NHL branding for marketing purposes, leverage promotional opportunities at marquee events such as the All-Star Game and Stanley Cup finals, and have access to the NHL’s fan database.

Following gaming partnerships with the NBA and Alliance of American Football, MGM chief executive Jim Murren said: “We believe there are going to be winners and losers in sports betting. We intend to be the winner.”