Once an outspoken opponent, NHL commissioner embraces sports betting

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He was once an outspoken opponent of legalized sports betting, but now NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is embracing the practice.

Bettman had fought against New Jersey’s desire to have legalized sports betting, a practice that was finally made legal earlier this year after a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Bettman said at the time that he feared that it would ruin the integrity of the NHL.

But now the hockey league has announced a partnership with sports wagering company FanDuel.

“The Supreme Court ruled and that was the end of whatever was,” Bettman says. “We had to evolve in the new world.”

The New Jersey Devils have already been embracing that new world. They announced three partnerships for sports betting. They were the first team to make an agreement with FanDuel and have also announced deals with William Hill and Caesars Entertainment.

“Screaming for relevance, being different and standing out in some way,” says Devils president Hugh Weber. “We believe innovation would be part of that.”

Weber says that innovation is being forced on the team because of the New York market, where there are multiple teams for each sport.

“You’ll see us continue to do these types of partnerships and be the first of its kind in this industry,” Weber says.

FanDuel will now have more access to data to help bettors. They will have detailed information on teams and matchups that bettors may want to wager on.

“How do we deliver the best experience, in this case, for hockey fans?” asks FanDuel CEO Matt King. “Working with the [Devils] and the [NHL] is the right way to do that.”

Some have asked if it was right for Bettman to wage a legal battle against New Jersey, taking money away from taxpayers, only to reap the benefits of sports betting in the end.

Bettman says, “This gives us an opportunity to be proactive as the world is changing.”

The NHL agreed to a deal with MGM Entertainment last week.

The Devils are constructing a sports betting lounge at the Prudential Center in Newark. But wagering will only be allowed on mobile phones through the sports betting app.

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