NHL, MGM Resorts enter into sports betting partnership

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“The world has changed.”

That and a U.S. Supreme Court decision making it possible for states to legalize sports betting has changed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s mind on the subject.

On Monday, the National Hockey League announced a partnership with MGM Resorts three months after the NBA did the same.

“I believe there was an opportunity here since it was happening anyway,” Bettman said.

What MGM Resorts will have access to is proprietary NHL game data that could later include player and puck tracking, a system that Bettman said should be fully ready by the start of the 2019-20 season.

“If I know one player is faster than the other, if I know one expends less energy than the other, if I know one has a faster slap shot than the other, it gives me information that I can bet,” MGM Resorts president of interactive gaming Scott Butera told the Associated Press. “If I’m betting on who will score the most goals, I have that tool. Ultimately when enough data is collected on that, we’ll be able to actually bet on that data itself. So you could have a bet on which player’s going to have the highest average slap shot throughout the game.”

The partnership and data to be provided is also not exclusive, so you can, ahem, bet that the league will be announcing more deals like this in the future with casinos in states where sports betting is legalized.

Both the Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils announced separate partnerships with bookmaker William Hill US earlier this season.

As part of the deal the NHL will not receive a cut from any money being wagered. The fixed revenue from the MGM partnership, however, will be part of hockey-related revenue and shared 50/50 with the NHL Players’ Association. That will certainly affect future salary caps.

Integrity of games isn’t a concern for Bettman. Betting lines for games will continued to be monitored for any curious movement.

“I’ve never worried and don’t worry about the integrity of our game,” Bettman said. “It has been strong even when the majority of gambling was not through legal sportsbooks.”

When asked about whether this will change the “upper-” and “lower-body” injury designations for players, Bettman said that he’s not sure the NHL will become like the NFL in that area.

“Our players tend to play hurt,” he said. “I’m not sure we have any interest in changing our reports. We’re comfortable with the way things are because it’s important for the long-term health of our players. We don’t want them targeted when they’re playing injured.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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