Casino Owner Buys National Hockey League Team

  • Las Vegas casino owner Alex Meruelo has bought the Arizona Coyotes
  • He becomes the first Latino owner of a National Hockey League team
  • The Coyotes have been struggling with low attendance figures in recent years
  • The NHL has been cashing in on legal sports betting since the federal ban was lifted
Long view of an NHL game
Casino owner Alex Meruelo is now also the owner of the Arizona Coyotes.

Details of this move

The National Hockey League (NHL) has approved Alex Meruelo’s purchase of the Arizona Coyotes. Meruelo, the owner of the SLS Las Vegas hotel and casino, bought the majority share of the team last week. The deal will not be completed until July; terms have not been made public but it appears that the price might be as low as $300m (£236m).

The team has been struggling with low attendance, never having finished better than 28th out of 31 teams since the 2006-2007 season. The plan is for the new owner to move the team to a new location or find some innovative way to increase attendances at the Gila River Arena in Glendale.

The NHL has a lot of faith in the gambling sector, even allowing a team to move to Las Vegas in 2017. If Arizona legalizes sports betting and it’s available at the arena, it could be a good way to get more people to attend the Coyotes’ games.

Who is Alex Meruelo?

Alex Meruelo is a Cuban-American entrepreneur and billionaire who has a variety of business interests, including a real estate and construction company called the Meruelo Group, a television station, and five radio stations in Los Angeles.

Meruelo has experience turning around businesses that are struggling. In 2011, he took over the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. He made significant changes and it is now the biggest hotel in that market.

He is doing the same with the SLS Las Vegas, which will soon become the Sahara Hotel and Casino. It was close to shutting down for good before Meruelo got on board. His hope is to make this a major destination for Hispanic travelers.

He has previously sought to buy a stake in a major sports team. In 2011, he was trying to take over the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks but was unsuccessful. The team was eventually sold in 2015 to Tony Ressler. Now he is the first Latino owner of an NHL team.

Gambling and the NHL

For many years, the NHL joined the other major US sports leagues in an attempt to stop legal sports betting from coming to the country. However, their efforts were ultimately fruitless when a Supreme Court decision ended the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018.

Since then, the NHL has been looking to get a slice of the sports betting action. The league’s first official gaming partner was MGM Resorts International. As is standard in such partnerships, MGM Resorts can use the NHL logo in its advertising campaigns and can have access to exclusive league data.

What is impressive about the exclusive data is that it is actually gathered by the puck during NHL games. This data goes instantly to the MGM’s sportsbook team. Most major sports leagues are looking at a similar means to sell their data to sportsbook operators. MGM Resorts, in turn, helps the NHL with their integrity systems to ensure there are no suspicious betting trends.

The NHL also has deals with William Hill and FanDuel. According to a Nielsen Sports report, the NHL could stand to make as much as $216m (£170m) a year because of legal sports betting. About $65m (£51m) of this would come from advertising by gambling companies. The fans will benefit from loyalty programs and promotional events where they can win free tickets and merchandise.