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Volume 26 No. 44
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Golden Knights Sign With William Hill In Historic First Sportsbook Deal

William Hill will receive logo placement on the dasher boards at T-Mobile Arena

Las Vegas-based William Hill U.S. and the Golden Knights have completed the first team sponsorship deal in the newly opened sportsbook category, a historic, and fitting, marriage between the first global sportsbook to enter the U.S. market and the first major sports franchise to make the world's gaming capital its home. Neither the team nor the bookmaking company would discuss terms, other than to confirm that it was multiyear and non-exclusive. While gaming is a competitive and lucrative sponsorship category for the Golden Knights, they have shied away from exclusivity there, maintaining relationships with a range of companies in a town in which gaming is both the largest employer and the economic lifeblood. The Golden Knights had MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Caesar's Entertainment and Cosmopolitan as sponsors last season, but none could advertise or promote its sportsbook. As a pure-play sportsbook that does not operate casinos, William Hill was boxed out from anything beyond tickets and hospitality. "We hope people will be sitting at T-Mobile and betting between periods," said William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher, a Golden Knights season-ticket holder who hustled back from East Coast meetings to catch Stanley Cup playoff games last season. "Frankly, we know they do that already. We're hoping to be able to get more people to our site because the brand will be right there in front of them."

TOEING THE LINE: The deal calls for William Hill to receive exposure through traditional mechanisms: logo placement on the dasher boards, scoreboard and ribbon board at T-Mobile Arena; rotating banner ads on the team web site; and commercial spots during radio broadcasts. However, the most intriguing aspect of the sponsorship may well be the integration of the sportsbook's brand into a new in-game feature -- the "William Hill line change" -- which creatively links a term common to both hockey and sports betting. Once per period, the William Hill logo will appear on the ribbon board when the Golden Knights change lines on the fly. That line change also will be pegged to William Hill on radio broadcasts. The company is in discussions about integration into the TV broadcast with AT&T SportsNet, Asher said. Though fans were able to bet on hockey and other sports using mobile apps at Golden Knights games last season, this will be the first time the team is able to acknowledge that, and benefit from it. "We have a really unique marketplace because of all the gaming companies located here, so from day one this category has been one of our key targets," said Golden Knights President & COO Kerry Bubolz. "Even though we couldn't promote the sportsbook component with our gaming partners, we were fortunate to be able to develop significant relationships that … helped us learn how they view the (sportsbook) space and what's important to them."

YOU BETTER YOU BET: William Hill's global HQ is in London, where it was founded in '34, but it has made Las Vegas its hub of U.S. operations. Unlike the Golden Knights' other sponsors from the gaming world, sports betting is its entire business, rather than a small fraction of it. "To the other gaming companies, the sportsbook was important but not a huge part of their business," said Golden Knights Senior VP & Chief Sales Officer Jim Frevola. "But for the online gaming companies, it is their business. This is a different animal for William Hill than it is for the Wynn."