NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was once one of the biggest opponents to legal sports betting. Next month, however, he will finish his complete 180-degree flip on the issue.
It was announced earlier this week that Bettman will headline a panel that discusses how gambling operators can work with professional sports leagues to create better businesses at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.
The Global Gaming Expo, more commonly known as G2E, takes place October 14-17 and is put on by the American Gaming Association, the largest pro-gambling lobby in the country. Bettman will be on the panel titled “Executive Viewpoints: NHL Commissioner Bettman and Leading Gaming Executives Discuss New Business Partnerships.”
Bettman will be joined on stage by Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US; Greg Carlin, co-founder and CEO of Rush Street Gaming; and Matt King, CEO of FanDuel. The panel will be part of the sports betting symposium portion of the conference.
Bettman helped the NHL become the first of the four major American professional sports leagues to put a franchise in Vegas when the Golden Knights became part of the league in 2017. As documented in his March interview with the Washington Post, he was not always a fan of the festivities in Sin City.
In a 2012 deposition filed by the NHL to attempt to stop New Jersey’s efforts to legalize sports betting, Bettman said that the atmosphere that the league was looking to create was at odds with the sports betting industry.
“I think that when somebody loses a bet, they tend to sometimes confuse their motives in rooting and enjoying the game because if you lose your bet, even thought the team you’re rooting for wins, you have a potentially conflicted outcome,” said Bettman in the deposition.
Bettman was arguing to keep the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 in place. The law essentially made sports betting illegal nationwide outside of Nevada. The law was struck down by the Supreme Court in May 2018.
Since it was overturned, 13 states currently have legal sports betting, five more have passed legislation and are waiting to launch their products and several more are likely to legalize it in the next legislative session.
Now that it looks like there is no stopping legal sports betting, Bettman has completely changed his tune. He echoes the sentiment of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred who said that sports betting is a “great source of fan engagement.”
“Ultimately, I think if you’re interested in sports betting, you’re going to have an increased opportunity to engage with the game,” said Bettman in the Washington Post interview. “If you’re not interested, it shouldn’t impact the way you consume the game. And if you’re a sports fan who may not necessarily be a hockey fan, it will give you an opportunity, potentially, to sample something new.”
Bettman’s change of heart on sports betting will be one of the panel’s main focuses.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to hear from Commissioner Bettman and leading industry executives during this momentous time for the sports and gaming industries,” said AGA president and CEO Bill Miller. “With so many new partnerships between leagues, teams and gaming entities, it will be invaluable to hear the insights of our converging industries represented on a single stage.”