We end 2018 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Arena Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #5: Online sports gambling hits arenas.
The notion of a modern sports book seems antiquated: after all, anyone with a smartphone is basically a walking sports book. Still, the legalization of online sports gambling certainly impacted the arena world in 2018 and is poised to stimulate more change in 2019.
In a highly anticipated decision in May, the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for state-regulated sports betting, overturning a federal ban. Striking down the law effectively allows states to legalize sports betting, and both New Jersey and Delaware have already seen their laws legalizing sports betting take effect. Initially the NHL, NBA and the other major sports opposed the decision, but then laid out a plan to regulate sports betting—and collect a fee along the way. But ties between gaming interests and arena sports are well-established: the WNBA has been playing at Mohegan Sun Arena since 2003, and the NHL had already confronted the gambling demons by granting an expansion team to Las Vegas.
And look for online gaming services to target arenas for marketing. At Newark’s Prudential Center, William Hill US opened the William Hill Sports Lounge (shown above). The lounge will feature plenty of monitors, with odds being updated consistently. However, in-person cash bets will not be accepted within the space, a measure that complies with New Jersey law limiting that activity to casinos and racetracks. William Hill US also scored a major coup in Las Vegas by inking a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights with a sponsorship that includes a TV visible dasherboard, in-arena signage, updated league-wide odds displayed on the in-arena Knight Tron during intermission, an away game watch party, and recognition on the LED ribbon board of the “William Hill Line Change” when the Golden Knights make a line change during the game.
In both cases, there will be no actual wagers at the venue. But, as we noted, in this age of the smartphone and online gaming, actual wagering windows aren’t necessary. As more states approve online gaming, look for more arenas to strike deals like the William Hill US deals in Las Vegas and Newark.
Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for William Hill.
Here’s our Top Ten of 2018 to date: