When FanDuel recently joined British bookmaker William Hill and iconic casino brand Caesars Entertainment as corporate sponsors at the Prudential Center in Newark, it brought back memories of the FanDuel/DraftKings advertising overkill in the 2015 NFL season.
Fortunately, New Jersey Devils fans who come out to support their team should be safe from that sort of in-your-face bombardment.
That said, Devils executives aren’t being shy about partnering up with as many sports betting companies as possible. Neither the William Hill nor Caesars lounge sites have made much progress yet at the arena, but they’re coming, and they’ll have company. I had an ice-level conversation with Devils executive Adam Davis (pictured above, far left) at Tuesday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Davis explained that the experience of principal owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer in owning the Premier League Crystal Palace soccer club informed the Devils’ decision-making.
“Over there [in Britain], traditionally four gaming partners is the average,” Davis told NJ Online Gambling. “And the average person has three different accounts — so they might have signed up with, say, a William Hill, FanDuel, and Caesars account and are just looking for the best odds.”
Davis said that William Hill, while a deeply established brand in Europe, is seeking to gain brand awareness in the U.S. Caesars, meanwhile, already is well-known to Americans from its casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and beyond. And FanDuel already has its stamp on diehard sports fans from all those commercials — and has an intent to offer unique prop bets to further distinguish itself.
Gambling with excess
Each of the three gaming brands has its unique qualities. Still, isn’t there a risk of overkill? After all, plenty of Devils season ticket holders have no interest in gambling — with some perhaps even holding opposition to the activity because a family member or close friend suffered from a gambling addiction.
“Well, the area we are turning into the William Hill Sports Lounge used to be the Jack Daniels Bar, so you could probably make that same argument, where maybe you don’t like alcohol advertising because a family member had the same issue,” Davis said. “But sports betting has been around since long before any of us came along, and I think it can be great for the sports fan. Daily fantasy sports introduced a new way for fans to enjoy the game.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told me last week that he was not concerned about oversaturation of gambling advertising.
“There already are a lot of products advertised that certain people don’t necessarily care about,” Bettman said. “It’s just a consumer’s individual choice.”
After doing a 360-degree walk of the Prudential Center on Tuesday night, it’s difficult to argue with that point. There really is a lot of advertising coming at the patron.
Also, Davis points out that while the William Hill site in the arena will be open to all, only 1,200 Devils premium ticket holders will have access to the Caesars area.
It’s also worth noting that sports betting is just a modest part of Caesars’ overall portfolio. Davis said that one of the major benefits for Caesars will be that its bar/restaurant will be accessible to concert-goers who might have as much of an interest on other forms of gambling as in sports betting.
Davis said that it’s possible there will be a fourth gaming partner, if the circumstances are right.
It’s important to point out that fans don’t need to be in the William Hill or Caesars designated areas to place a bet before or during the game. In New Jersey, you can place a wager on your smartphone anywhere within state borders.
While the Devils — and the Vegas Golden Knights — seem to be pioneers of the intersection between pro sports and legal gambling, the fact is that it’s standard practice in Europe and other parts of the world. Those experiences will inform U.S. sports franchises on how to mix in the advertising without polluting the landscape for the average fan.