NHL Looking to Make Big Bucks From Sports Gambling

The National Hockey League has signed a deal with MGM — the gambling giant and owner of the iconic MGM Grand Station in Las Vegas — that could open the doors for gambling on pro hockey games.

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MGM has forked over several hundred million dollars in exchange for a tremendous amount of data on teams and games, which will presumably be used for computing odds once the gambling gets well and truly underway. The form of these bets could be as simple as which team takes home the title or as complex as the number of goals or assists a player makes in a period. MGM now has access to all the data collected by the league and can tailor bets around all aspects of the game.

Gambling in the U.S. and the World

Up until this past year, gambling throughout the U.S. was prevented under the 1992 Amateur Sports Protection Act, which outlawed wagering of any kind on most sports events in most states. However, in the spring of 2018, the Supreme Court ruled this law unconstitutional, allowing states to determine their own path forward. Some states have already signaled their willingness to embrace sports betting, while other legislatures have been cautious about opening that particular can of worms.

Gambling on sports events throughout world history has been a touchy subject. Since gambling is traditionally defined as a vice similar to a drug or alcohol addiction, some societies have refused to fully integrate it. Still, gambling on one contest or another — be it games of chance or favorite sports teams — has existed everywhere, whether it was legal or not. As far back as Ancient Greece, people were laying money on chariot races.

In the U.S., gambling has not been totally outlawed. In certain areas traditionally associated with gambling, the bets have continued unimpeded. Las Vegas is perhaps the best example, though other notables include Atlantic City, New Jersey, and several Native American Reservations across the U.S.

Jun 8, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks fan Ray Alcala (right) holds a replica Stanley Cup as he arrives before game three of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

While setting up a gambling operation is as simple as obtaining a license, many areas have been marked as off-limits by state and federal legislation. Professional sports were on this list up until 2018.

The New Experience

Changes in the experience of the sport are another matter of concern to traditional fans. While laying money on the line can undoubtedly increase the emotions of the arena, it is also likely that the betting will be undertaken widely on mobile devices. Having participants staring at their phones throughout a game, tracking statistics and evolving odds can take away from the usual hype of a close game.

On top of this, the truth is that betting destroys the group dynamic of a team's fans. By putting additional emphasis on odds and betting, those looking to capitalize on the betting will find themselves continually shifting between teams when making their bets. These are the fans who will be checking their phones at the end of the third period, making last-minute tweaks to their strategy instead of standing and cheering on their team as loudly as they can.

Gambling's Effect on Sports in the Future

That being said, most sports fans have been widely receptive to the chance of betting on their favorite teams. Statistics have shown that the average fan for any sports franchise is more likely to support gambling and betting on sports than the average U.S. population. By offering the chance to gamble, the NHL might be opening the doors to an even better fan experience — or a slightly diminished one.

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