NHL commissioner: Legal sports betting could create opportunity

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on legal sports betting

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, despite opposing this week’s Supreme Court decision that clears the way for states to allow legal sports betting, concedes it could actually help hockey.

“In terms of creating more interest and opportunities for states, for the federal government, for casinos … and for sports leagues, while the future is uncertain, I think there’s a fair amount of opportunity if it’s done right,” Bettman told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

The NHL, NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and NCAA had urged the high court to stand by a 1992 federal law barring sports betting in most states outside Nevada. But on Monday, the justices, in a 6-3 vote, went the other way, upholding the legality of a 2014 New Jersey law permitting sports betting at casinos and racetracks in the state.

“The Supreme Court has spoken and we need to deal with the realities of our world,” Bettman said.

Gary Bettman

“Done right,” according to Bettman, would be a “one-size-fits-all sports betting solution that Congress passes.” The idea of dealing with 10 to 20 states “doing their own thing [is] “not our idea of a good time,” he said.

Ahead of Monday’s ruling seven other states — Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New York, Mississippi and West Virginia — had laws prepared to make sports betting legal. Thirteen other states — California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina — have plans or proposals to consider legalizing sports betting.

The new legal sports bookmakers in any of the new states are going to need a number of things from the various sports leagues, Bettman said. “There’s going to be a need for data, access to our games, our trademarks. The video of our games.”

“It’s not just betting, I suppose, on what the final score will be or result of the game. There may be a new world of prop bets where in the course of the game things will come up,” he said. Prop bets, or side bets as they’re also referred to, are those made during the game. He offered possible examples such as, “who’s going to score the next goal,” and will a team “score on the power play.”

“We’re also in the process from a technology standpoint of working what we call ‘puck and player tracking.’ So the amount of data we can create in the course of the game that you can’t currently now pull out of the game efficiently” could enhance possible bets as well as the analysis of the game, he said.

And perhaps, in an ironic twist that “Squawk Box” co-host Joe Kernen pointed out, the Capitals from Washington, D.C., the seat of the federal government, and the Las Vegas Golden Knights, from the gambling capital of the world, are still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup on opposite sides of the Eastern and Western Conference finals.

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