NHL Hires Gambling Watchdog Ahead of Vegas Move

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The New Jersey Devils defend the net against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Prudential Center on Dec. 29, 2015 in Newark, N.J.

Photographer: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • League already has data distribution contract with Sportradar
  • Deal comes amid call for legalized betting on U.S. sports

As it prepares to inaugurate a team in Las Vegas, the National Hockey League has hired a monitor to watch for suspicious gambling activity, which can be an early warning of cheating in the sport.

Financial terms of the contract with sports data company Sportradar AG weren’t disclosed.

It’s the latest U.S. sports deal for Sportradar, which is part owned by the National Football League. The Swiss company is also close to a six-year, $250 million contract with the National Basketball Association that would provide the league’s data to global betting houses. When that deal is complete, Sportradar will be in business with three of the four major U.S. sports leagues.

Opposition to legalized sports betting in the U.S. seems to be weakening among major league sports. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he thinks such a move is inevitable, and some NHL owners have suggested they are warming to the idea.

Andreas Krannich, Sportradar’s managing director of strategy and integrity, said discussions with the NHL began about a year ago, when the company became the data distribution partner for the league. Sportradar also has integrity deals with the International Ice Hockey Federation and the German Ice Hockey League.

“You would be surprised how far this cancer is already in sport,” he said. “There’s already international organized crime looking into this topic.”

Major League Baseball signed an integrity agreement nine months ago with Genius Sports, a London-based firm that also monitors global betting. Baseball officials said at the time that they wanted to take an abundance of caution to protect the sport’s credibility with fans.

When the Las Vegas expansion was announced Commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL wasn’t deterred by the city’s legal sports betting because far less money is wagered on hockey than other major sports. According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, $1.8 billion was bet on football and $1.4 billion on basketball in the year ended April 30. Hockey is lumped into a separate “other” category with less popular sports that drew $336 million in bets during that time.

“While we have the utmost confidence in the integrity of our sports and our games, Sportradar’s Fraud Detection System provides an additional layer of security and protection,” Bettman said in a statement.

Revolution Growth, the venture capital firm cofounded by Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, is also an investor in Sportradar, which monitors 550 betting operators worldwide. Leonsis didn’t play a role in the company’s talks with the NHL, Krannich said. Other investors in the company include Mark Cuban and Michael Jordan.

(Corrects to add Revolution Growth as an investor in Sportradar.)
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