The various states of opportunity
As the owner of NBA and NHL franchises in neighboring states, Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment has had a unique window into the dizzying early days of regulated sports betting.
The New Jersey Devils already have announced high-profile sponsorships with the sportsbooks of William Hill and Caesars Entertainment. And the Philadelphia 76ers, who play in what likely will be the next state to allow sports betting, are only a part of the casino deal with Caesars and don’t have a sportsbook deal.
Those deals are a perfect example of what Harris Blitzer Chief Revenue Officer Adam Davis already has found, which is that operating one team in a state that allows wagers and another in one that doesn’t can be tricky.
“It’s not only the league rules. It’s the differentiation between the NBA’s and NHL’s rules,” Davis said. “It’s what we can do within the parameters of the rules with these different properties. So it was something new to learn.”
HBSE, which is projecting $5 million from the category this year, also had to shift from a long-standing strategy of stressing the value of exclusivity.
“We were going to have multiple players in the space, which is an anomaly for us,” Davis said. “How do we build a strategy that delivers for each of these partners in a manner that will make them each distinct?”
For William Hill, that’s a branded main concourse sports bar at the Prudential Center tricked out to look like one of its sportsbooks, but with bets placed via users’ mobile devices. Caesars will put its name on a premium club area, also on the main concourse. It, too, plans to use the space to drive sign-ups, but also to market its casino properties.
Unlike William Hill, Caesars built its deal out to include both the Devils and the Sixers. Caesars wasn’t interested at that point in buying official data from the NBA, a requirement of any team sportsbook sponsor. So Harris Blitzer structured a straight casino deal with the Sixers.
“You can wager on slots, tables or sports — your choice — once you’re on the product,” said Michael Marino, senior vice president of marketing and chief experience officer for Caesars Entertainment. “So we feel good about the way we’re set up in those two states to be able to attract the NBA guys.”