The National Hockey League has fully embraced sports betting, signing an organizationwide marketing deal with casino giant MGM Resorts International.

As the league’s first sports-betting partner, MGM Resorts will be able to use official NHL logos and trademarks at sports books in states where betting has been legalized. MGM Resorts will also have access to new proprietary game data that the NHL is currently developing and hopes to roll out by next season.

It’s a sharp turn for the NHL, which for years fought New Jersey’s attempt to legalize the activity. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said in the past few years that the NHL didn’t lend itself to gambling in the same manner as other sports.

“The world has changed, and the way people consume sports has changed,” Bettman said Monday at a press conference in New York. “To the extent that this may provide a vehicle for more fan engagement and connectivity to the game, it’s something that we had to embrace.”

The NHL deal is just the latest example of leagues -- and teams -- cozying up with the betting industry, which is expected to generate billions for professional sports. This deal is similar to one that the National Basketball Association signed with MGM Resorts back in July, then a first for a major U.S. league. Neither deal is exclusive, leaving both the NBA and NHL free to sign marketing deals with other casinos and operators.

Smaller Amount

The NHL is projected to see $216 million in added revenue due to legalized sports betting, about US$151 million from fans and $65 million from betting operators and sponsorships, according to research from the American Gaming Association. That’s significantly smaller than the AGA’s estimates for the NFL (US$2.3 billion), MLB (US$1.1 billion) or NBA (US$585 million).

Those numbers make sense considering how little is generally bet on NHL in Nevada. According to the state’s gaming control board, US$1.8 billion was bet on football and US$1.5 billion on basketball in 2017. Hockey is lumped into a separate “other” category with less-popular sports that drew US$428 million in bets during that time.

NHL teams remain free to sign their own marketing deals with other operators. Last week, the New Jersey Devils -- one of just two NHL teams that play in a legal jurisdiction -- signed a partnership with William Hill Plc. The U.K.-based gambling company also has a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Monday’s agreement isn’t the only business relationship between MGM Resorts and the NHL. The casino company is co-owner of T-Mobile arena, where the Golden Knights play.