The Caesars Club, shown in a rendering, will be a premium club at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (Courtesy Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment)
The focal point of sports betting at arenas sits in downtown Newark, N.J.
When the Supreme Court in May cleared the way for individual states to legalize betting, the issue immediately went nationwide, and its effects have been felt across the country.
But New Jersey was a party to the case that produced the ruling after advocating the legalization of sports betting for years, so it was ready to quickly move forward. Newark’s NHL team, the New Jersey Devils, was ready as well.
Five months later, the New Jersey Devils have deals with three gaming firms catering to fans placing legal bets online during NHL games and other events at Prudential Center. The Devils have signed sportsbook William Hill, Caesars Entertainment and FanDuel, a daily fantasy platform, as sponsors, and they expect more gaming deals to materialize in the future.
At Prudential Center, the gaming category as a whole is valued at $5 million a year, said Hugh Weber, president of the Devils and the arena. All three deals are multiyear agreements, although the Devils would not specify the number of years.
Prudential Center is home ice for the NHL's New Jersey Devils. (Getty Images)
“Everybody’s got their own little piece of the world,” Weber said. “It’s turned out well. New Jersey is leading the way,” apart from Nevada, where gambling has been legal for years.
“The Devils’ (being) the state’s only pro team has kind of made us a natural test case for other teams and leagues in the future,” Weber said.
To this point, Prudential Center patrons are restricted to placing bets through the three sponsors’ mobile applications. In New Jersey, where both online and brick-and-mortar betting are legal, the state determines the number of sports book licenses granted to venues, which is limited to horse racing tracks and Atlantic City casinos.
“The physical spaces are regulated by the state of New Jersey through a different jurisdiction,” Weber said. “We’re not contemplating that the law will change anytime soon.”
It’s just as well in today’s digital age. People do everything on their mobile devices and don’t really need to place bets with a teller to engage in the activity, said Marcus DiNitto, managing editor of Bet Chicago, a betting information site focusing on Chicago’s big-league teams.
And it’s just as well at Prudential Center, where Weber said the Devils prefer that their fans sit in their seats watching the game while placing bets on their devices rather than searching for a kiosk outside the seating bowl.
Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, the Devils’ owner, also owns the Crystal Palace Football Club, and the Devils consulted with the Premier League team before signing their deals. In Europe, sports betting is part of the culture of live events and betting windows are integrated into soccer stadiums.
The Devils split the gaming category into pieces, driven in part by the demographics targeted by the three partners: FanDuel skews younger for its daily fantasy play, compared with Caesars, which typically draws an older, higher-end clientele, Weber said.
Devils’ research shows that sports bettors use several sites to find the best odds possible.
“Consumers aren’t necessarily picking one platform and sticking with it,” he said. “They’re dabbling with multiple platforms for placing sports wagers. The idea is how do we determine ways to create experiences for those brands in a way that our fans can appreciate.”
William Hill’s Michael Grodsky (center) with Harris Blitzer’s Adam Davis (left) and Hugh Weber. (Courtesy Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment)
William Hill, which also has a deal with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, already operates at Monmouth Park Racetrack and two casinos in New Jersey. At Prudential Center, its brand will adorn the William Hill Sports Lounge, a 1,200-square-foot space on the main concourse formerly occupied by a Jack Daniel’s bar.
When it’s completed later this season, the lounge will have the look and feel of a sports book. Televisions will show big league games and post the odds for those contests, Weber said. The British sports book’s assets also include updated odds posted on the center-hung videoboard, the “William Hill Line Change” promotion and dasher board signs.
Caesars, which Devils co-owner Josh Harris has an ownership stake in through Apollo Management Group, his private equity firm, takes over a 5,000-square-foot premium space that at one time was the Jeep Frontier Club. The new Caesars Club is exclusive to 460 club-seat holders. Caesars Entertainment stands as No. 1 in gaming revenue in North America and the club fits well with its model of high-end experiences, Weber said.
Legends, the Devils’ concessionaire, runs the branded destinations, which both serve food and drink.
FanDuel’s deal includes an in-ice logo, the first in the NHL for a gaming firm, plus digital and social media exposure.
The Devils don’t get access to their partners’ data, which prevents the team from contacting potential new customers. It’s exclusive to William Hill, Caesars and FanDuel, with no links to the team and arena mobile apps. There are some regulations over how that data flows, but over time it could potentially be something that the Devils tap into, Weber said.
The data piece is critical for the sponsors. Caesars’ deal, for example, allows it to send in-arena bettors information about its casinos and send them promotions to steer new business to its properties, said John Brennan, a writer for US Bets, a website documenting betting legislation across the country. Brennan was a longtime reporter for the Bergen Record, chronicling the state’s lengthy effort to get sports betting legalized in the Garden State.
At MetLife Stadium, part of the New Jersey Meadowlands Sports Complex, fans can now freely place bets on their mobile devices during New York Jets and Giants games. The teams don’t advertise the opportunity because the NFL remains resistant to the issue, Brennan said. (Several NFL teams have deals with gaming resorts on the hospitality side, including Caesars’ founding partnership for the Raiders’ stadium under construction in Las Vegas).
There’s a free shuttle bus service from the MetLife Stadium parking lot to the adjacent Meadowlands Racetrack, where fans can place bets at the FanDuel sports book, Brennan said. After Jets and Giants games are over, hundreds of fans waiting for traffic to clear take the shuttle to the track to place bets and watch the late Sunday afternoon games on big screens.
“The teams don’t advertise the shuttle, but if you know where to look, you can find it and go back and forth before the game, if you prefer that sort of social experience,” he said. “They have real tellers to place traditional bets. It’s a bit of a strange situation.”
It’s all part of the shakeout in a new dawn for sports betting in-venue in the U.S.
“If you see the trajectory of this category in N.J. and how much it’s grown in a few months, other states will see the revenue [potential],” Weber said. “We’re in the early stages, but if the category can become as mature as it has in Europe, it’s a game changer.”
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