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Mixed Messages Are Coming From The NHL On Sports Gambling

By: Russell Potvin , Mon. Feb. 16, 2015

NHL's Mixed Messages On Gambling

The NHL is sending mixed messages on it's stance on the legalization of gambling when involving professional sports through statements and actions.

Though many national and international sports leagues have seen the benefit of gambling involving the play of their teams and embraced the increased attention and income that it brings, the NHL has instead been back and forth on the issue through their actions and words of spokespeople. While sports leagues have been against legalized gambling in the past, those with a great amount of pull and say in the industry are starting to come around, such as the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association.

While other leagues have taken stances saying that they do not overtly support sportsbook gambling, they have still taken steps to ensure that gamblers and outlets have the necessary information available. The value in increased interest and viewership in their respective sports is clearly seen. For example, the MLB has made the announcement of starting pitchers a requirement of their teams and the NFL forces teams to provide exact information on the nature and status of player injuries. These important factors can have an outcome of games and allow bookmakers to set odds for those that participate in gambling.

Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, expressed his worry about what the addition of support for gambling would have on "the way sports fans, especially young fans, cheer for their favourite teams. Does it change the dynamic of the relationship that a child has growing up rooting for his or her favourite team to enter the concern of are you going to win your bet?" Despite the statement that promoting gambling could be damaging to youth, the NHL seems to have no qualms about advertising in it's arenas for lotteries, casinos, and online gambling websites. Additionally, there's a nearly silent move being made by a group in Las Vegas hoping to connect a new hockey arena to a casino.

While the concern of gambling addition, affecting both adults and starting children down the same path, is a real one, invoking it against contrary advertising agreements and possible contracts for new sites that would all but guarantee gambling around their sport. The issue also comes around again with the partnership between the NHL and DraftKings, the official player pool supported by the league.

An argument from the other side could be made that with the exposure to the dangers of gambling addiction could serve as a teaching opportunity and actually help at risk groups in the long run. Whichever side of this the NHL decides to come down on, a solid stance needs to be taken. Either withdraw from advertising and involvement in gambling related activities or embrace the practice and enjoy the benefits that come from an increased and more interested fan base as well as greater income potential.