NHL Wants Share of Betting Profits

Ice hockey players

North America’s National Hockey League (NHL) wants a share of gambling profits if its intellectual property, data or video from games are used, as online sports betting rapidly rolls-out across the USA.

Other sports, including the National Basketball Association (NBA) and American football (NFL), have already laid a claim to a share of profits in return for the use of their data, and been backed up by England’s soccer Premier League. Early discussions have centred on a 1% levy for use of data and intellectual property.

With the NBA now taking matters a step further by announcing a partnership with MGM Sports, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wants to ensure ice hockey does not miss out on the action.

“We’ve historically been opposed to extending betting on our game, and emotionally I don’t think that has changed,” said Bettman.

“It is a fact of life that in the light of the Supreme Court ruling it will be up to states to decide whether or not they are going to enact sports betting. From our point of view, whether it’s our intellectual property, our data or videos of our games, we believe that if someone is going to exploit that to conduct their business, then we are going to need compensating.”

Why is data so important?

The result of a game – whether it is in the NHL, NBA or the English Premier League – is not much in doubt, and can hardly be classed as “intellectual property”. However, all games are stats-driven these days, and a great many of those stats form the basis for betting on the games.

If you take soccer as an example, online sports betting companies will be offering markets on the time of the first goal, the number of corners, the number of red and yellow cards shown in the game and so on.

To settle any of these markets, they need data from the sports themselves – more importantly, they need objective data. Customers would be unlikely to be so attracted to betting on a market if they thought the betting companies were making the final decision.

The value of objectivity

Here’s an example – England’s Premier League kicks off again on Friday and a safe bet is that one or two goals over the opening weekend will be heading to the “dubious goals panel” – a committee whose main function is to decide exactly who scored a goal, if it is not immediately obvious.

For example, was that shot by Harry Kane going in? Or was it really an own goal by the defender?

In markets like “first goalscorer” such a decision can be crucial – and can lose (or save) the online sports betting companies hundreds of thousands of pounds. So integrity and impartiality in the decision making is crucial: “Who scored?” is not a decision that can be made by the bookmakers.

So the demands of the NBA, NFL and now the NHL are understandable. The sports betting companies will need to find a way to work with the sports’ governing bodies. If online sports betting in the US is going to reach its full potential, then the integrity of the underlying data will be crucial to gamblers.

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