NHL in iGaming: Second Place in their Home Country?

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When the Ontarian market went live with regulated iGaming in April of 2022, the common expectation was that hockey and NHL betting would reign supreme in Canada. As the national sport in Canada and the one most associated with its people, it would be a fair assumption to make that the Ontarian market would go as betting on hockey would go.

However, that would be incorrect! When surveying Ontarians, OntarioBets.com found that their users preferred betting on the NBA, with 28% of residents betting on the NBA and only 22% of the NHL. This survey was also conducted during the NFL’s offseason, which would lead us to believe that their figures would have been higher if the survey was taken closer to the Super Bowl, dropping the NHL further.

With all that in mind, the NHL is still a massive sports entity in North America and considered one of the major four sports for the continent. With this post, we’ll look at why the NHL is struggling with sports betting when compared to other sports, how brands can look to market the product and exciting trends emerging around NHL sports betting.

The NHL’s Difficulties

While the NHL is still growing in the iGaming world, it’s had a tougher time than its counterparts at the NBA and NFL. One reason for this is that it’s seen as easier to bet on basketball and football. While other sports have larger spreads that can lead to exciting bets or parlays and which can be easier to predict, the NHL typically have tighter spreads, between -0.5 and -1.5 , giving less leeway for punters to bet on.

With less scoring than other sports, brands and their data providers haven’t been able to provide the same number of exciting prop bets to users as other sports, giving hockey another disadvantage.

While other sports have multiple positions or a variety of scoring plays to bet on, the most popular NHL prop bets are for a player to score or to have a certain number of shots.

Compared to other leagues, the NHL also has a problem with their star power. While they have young superstars like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, along with mainstays like Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, their marketing power can’t be compared to someone like LeBron James or Tom Brady. The NHL has long struggled to market their stars and it’s likely a factor in their slower start in the iGaming world.

How Brands Can Promote NHL Betting

Now, that we’ve covered some of the difficulties brands have had with sports betting in the NHL, there’s still a lot to be excited about!

While the NHL doesn’t have the star power of the NBA, they have massive stars playing in Canada that can be focused on to connect with that audience. The previously mentioned Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid are two of the biggest stars in hockey and play for prominent Canadian teams. In Ontario, where the NHL is lagging behind competitors, focusing on these two stars can lead to dividends for brands. Prop bets focused on their scoring prowess is sure to drum up interest.

There are always other ways to get players more invested into NHL betting. One way would be to mix NHL props into large ‘boosted prop bets’ to users. By including prop bets from the NHL, with ones from the NBA or other sports playing on the same day, brands can increase visibility of betting on NHL and get their audience to interact with it further.

Another way is to run exciting player vs player bets, while ensuring as much as possible to use superstar players in these offers. As mentioned earlier, the NHL has less scoring than other league, but putting together bets that ask users to choose which player will have more points or goals can lead to increased engagement.

Exciting Trends for the NHL

While the NHL has started slower in North America than other sports, they haven’t been resting on their laurels either. The NHL has entered multiple partnerships with key operators and data providers to ensure their visibility and the best possible betting options for fans of the game.

For North America, the NHL partnered with FanDuel and BetMGM as the first-ever North American sports betting partners of the NHL. As two of the biggest brands in the continent, the NHL is hoping these partnerships will help them reach new users. They also reached an agreement with PointsBet to be an Official Sports Betting Partner, marking another strategic partnership with a brand who’s strong in USA, but also in Australia.

In Ontario, where the NHL hopes to make more of a mark as the iGaming market continues to evolve there, they entered a partnership with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and Proline+. The partnership sees Proline+, the official sportsbook offered by the OLG, become the official sports betting partner of the NHL in Canada.

The NHL is also focusing on land-based betting, dealing with BetMGM and MGM Resorts to become the official sports betting and resort partner of the NHL. While we already outlined the value of the BetMGM deal, having MGM Resorts continue to push the NHL product and increase visibility is a massive win for the league.

Another massive partnership came with Sportsradar becoming the NHL’s Official Betting Data Rights, Official Betting Streaming Rights and Official Media Data Rights Partner. This helps the NHL send exciting data to sportsbooks with the hopes of creating new prop bets or other bets to create engagement with fans.

Key Takeaways

While the NHL has gotten off to a sluggish start in the iGaming world, there’s a ton of potential for them to move forward and take a bigger piece of the market share. With the suggestions put together in this piece, brands can further enhance their content on the league and increase engagement with their users. While matching the NFL for betting may be impossible, the NHL can continue to grow in the sports betting world with the right moves.