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WHY NOW IS THE TIME TO LEGALIZE GAMBLING ON PRO SPORTS ACROSS AMERICA

May 14th, 2020

Professional athletes across the world are currently sitting at home, impatiently awaiting news of when they can rejoin their respective sports teams. With updates on when this may be possible provided through guidance from Politicians, Federal and State officials, League Commissioners and Medical Authorities it makes for an unprecedented time of uncertainty.

What is certain, is that millions of dollars in revenues are being lost each day across all major sports. We must accept the fact that creativity and “outside the box” thinking will be required to regain the already incurred revenue losses, particularly as we face the realization of restarting our sports leagues without fans. The Covid-19 pandemic will leave lasting effects on our economy, draining governments of their financial resources and leaving many states with massive economic deficits and an overall bleak outlook… enter enhanced legalized pro sports gambling!

Now is the time, for an abundance of reasons, to legalize gambling on sporting events across the United States. I can only speak for the sport I am the most familiar with because of my work as an agent, the NHL, but I assume that my proposal would help generate revenue for all major sports in America.

The reality is, many sports fans already gamble on games through known online platforms and all major casinos carry odds on multiple sports, along with micro-betting capabilities specific to individual games. The NHL already counts three partnerships with Sports books, casinos and gaming platforms. The requisite technology is in place for easily navigated in-game, real-time micro-wagering. Why not adopt it across the board now and make it a priority in their marketing of the game?

Currently, a bettor simply needs to physically be in a legalized state to place a bet, with the ability to collect their winnings even in a non-legalized state. Online gambling companies regulate the cross-border restrictions by simply requiring that participants share their location to make a bet from their mobile device.

The NHL has taken progressive steps toward the industry of sports betting since the US Supreme Court nullified the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in the spring of 2018. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, the NHL has added several noteworthy partners including deals with MGM, Fanduel, and naming William Hill as their Official Sports Betting Partner.

The NBA and NFL have conducted similar dealings, with the NFL going so far as showing recent interest in hiring a VP of Sports Betting. Sports betting is already legal in some capacity in 21 states + Washington D.C., with 13 of those states home to at least one NHL/NFL/NBA/MLB franchise and 48 of 124 (Seattle NHL included) franchises total.

Why wouldn’t the NHL join forces with MLB, NBA, the NFL, and any other major sport in America to lobby every remaining State, with the help of the Federal Government, to legalize sports betting nationwide?

The leagues would then be free to negotiate more revenue sharing deals independently with the likes of DraftKings, Fanduel, William Hill Sports Book, or any of the major casinos to capitalize on these newly generated revenues. William Hill already has independent deals in place with the New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights (two teams in states that currently permit legal gambling). If gaming companies and casinos can control who is allowed to bet on sports and from where, then it’s reasonable to assume the technology exists to control athletes from placing bets on their own sport, which has always been a concern for all leagues. Legalized sports betting has existed on other continents (primarily Europe) for years with minimal reports of athlete-related issues.

The NHL relies on in-game generated revenues more so than any of the other major professional leagues in North America and operates under a revenue-sharing model that directly affects the overall landscape of the league through a hard salary cap. As we face the possibility of a re-start with no fans and broadcasting events for TV and internet consumption only, instantaneous online in-game betting could play a major role in replacing lost ticket sales revenues and help lessen the financial blow moving forward. Real-time gambling would enhance fan engagement and open a different angle to sell the game to a potentially broader audience.

The NHL released a statement detailing that betting on NHL games increased 38% in 2018-2019 at William Hill’s Nevada Sports Book following the company’s partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Additionally, companies like Rivals Media have the capabilities to set up non-gambling, in-game virtual contests for fans as the fan broadcast experience (that has been unchanged for the better part of three decades) starts to transform. The athletes will be forced to adapt to playing in front of empty seats in a quiet environment, but the broadcasts can still leave the fans a feeling of participation even without being physically present.

To take things even a step further, why not host the current NHL playoffs in gambling friendly states, inviting fans to be quarantined with the players and staff for a premium ticket to attend a series of games?

Recognizing I work in one of the most traditional and conservative sports, I understand that wrapping our heads around new-age, virtual concepts during games does not come naturally for many of us and the NHL should be commended for it’s forward-thinking partnerships leading up to this moment. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. With a plan to legalize sports betting in all 50 states (and Canada), we create an additional source of revenue for all the pro leagues, and for the many States who have yet to legalize it themselves. We have watched the one-time significant roadblocks (legislation, technology, regulations, enforceability, scalability, etc.) be knocked down over the past few years. With the forced change brought by the pandemic, comes the possibility of new opportunities. Now is the time to act, for the survival of our professional sports leagues and the careers of many across all walks of life.

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