PartyPoker seems to have broken down a wall between online gambling and professional sports teams in the U.S. by announcing a sponsorship deal with the New Jersey Devils hockey club and the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. The teams are jointly owned.
Of course if there has been a wall, it’s a relatively young one as online gambling has only been legal in the U.S. for less than a year and in New Jersey since November.
Major U.S. sports leagues, however, have vigorously opposed sports betting, which is not currently available in New Jersey. Bwin.party, owners of PartyPoker, is one of the largest overseas sports betting firms in the world.
Both the NBA and NHL approved the deal, however, since NJPartyPoker does not include sports betting.
Many U.S.-based teams accept advertising from land-based casinos. PartyPoker offers both online poker and online casino games in New Jersey.
PartyPoker will be the official online gaming partner of the Sixers and the Devils as well as the Prudential Center in Newark NJ where the Devils play. Under the reported $10 million, multi-year deal, the PartyPoker brand will be incorporated with the two team’s online presence including social media and apps.
The deal also covers ticket sales, hospitality, in-arena signage, dasherboards, on-ice and on-court and rights to broadcast television and radio advertisements during Devils and Sixers games.
One promotion already announced includes the “Dream Seat Series”, which will allow fans who play on nj.partypoker.com, to compete for prizes, including regular, courtside and VIP suite seats to all Devils and Sixers home games, road trips with the teams and tickets to concerts at the Prudential Center.
PartyPoker will also set up informational booths at the Prudential Center. Since the arena is located in New Jersey, fans at games could presumably sign-up for PartyPoker and gamble from their seats. The booths will not be set up at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia where the Sixers play since online gambling is not legal in Pennsylvania.
According to a report in the New York Times, NHL officials say they will monitor the booths closely to ensure they comply with league rules. The NHL does not permit gaming-themed promotions within their arenas, the report said.
Officials for the two teams feel the deal will be a boon to fans.
“This doesn’t seem like we’re breaking any taboos,” said Scott O’Neil, CEO for both teams and the Prudential Center at a press conference announcing the deal. “I think for us the most important thing is being with a partner that can really engage our fans in a smart way, and someone who understands for those of our fans who do play poker and those that are inclined for gaming whether they come to concerts here or a Sixers game or a Devils game they will be treated like a royal flush, if you will.”
They also acknowledged the controversy the deal will likely bring.
“We are very much aware that we are not selling diapers or toothpaste,” said Norbert Teufelberger, CEO of bwin.party digital entertainment. “We are selling a gaming product. This is a very controversial topic in the United States for many, many years so we know that a lot of eyes are on us. We have to do a good job. We have to develop that product respectfully according to the regulatory regime in New Jersey, but tying up with an organization like this will help us.”
Teufelberger also said sports betting is not an issue in the deal.
“Sports gambling is not on the table right now,” Teufelberger said. “I would hope at some point it will be. If it ever comes we can sit together and see what we can make out of it. This is up to the leagues more than anything, and to the regulators. It’s just not something we have discussed at all.”
New Jersey has tried to implement sports betting in the state despite a federal law banning such bets, but has been rebuffed in the courts.
Currently, only three U.S. States—New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada—allow online gambling. Players must be physically located in the states to gamble.