Could Net Betting Save the NHL?

22 September 1999
ESPN Reported over the weekend that the National Hockey League (NHL) might look to gambling revenues as a solution to the financial woes of its six Canadian franchises.

The league released a position paper September 17 stating that it's willing to partner with provincial lottery corporations if a revenue sharing agreement would keep the Canadian teams in Canada. The cities of Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa are presently homes to NHL franchises.

The league stated that it would even go as far as allowing lottery corporations to use its logos and trademarks to help increase the estimated $171 million of bets legally placed by Canadians each year. It would also ask the U.S. franchises to agree that money received from the lotteries would only go to the six Canadian clubs. That means U.S. teams would pay less into the revenue-sharing pool, which cost the teams $42.1 million over the last four years.

Canadian teams are handicapped by having to pay significantly higher taxes than U.S. teams and subsequently can't afford to pay their players as well as the U.S. teams can. At least one team--the Ottawa Senators--is considering a move to the U.S. because of this. The NHL has asked Canada for tax relief, however, the new paper suggests that modifying taxes won't be necessary if teams get a share of lottery revenue.

The online gambling industry could end up being part of the equation because sports betting in Canada is handled by lottery corporations, and many believe that Canadian lotteries are destined to go online. The Quebec lottery, for one, has recently been entertaining the idea.

With that in mind, here's some food for thought: If the six remaining Canadian NHL teams were to follow in the footsteps of the Quebec Nordiques and the Winnipeg Jets by leaving Canada, hockey, separated from its roots, would essentially be dead. If the Quebec lottery goes online, sanctioned Internet sports betting would take part in boosting revenues. So, if lottery revenues are the answer to keeping the teams in Canada, and a chunk of those revenues were to come from online betting, you could argue that Net betting would be playing a significant role in keeping the sport of hockey alive.

Granted, it's a bit of a stretch, but never underestimate the influence of this industry.

Mark Balestra

Mark Balestra is the Managing Director at BolaVerde Media Group. He previously worked at Clarion Gaming and the River City Group where he was the publisher of iGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.