Caps become 1st NHL team to sell ads on jerseys

  • Joined ESPN in 2014
  • Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

The Washington Capitals are the first NHL team to sell advertising on its jerseys.

Washington announced a multi-year partnership with Caesars Entertainment that will place a Caesars Sportsbook logo on Capitals home and third jerseys beginning in the 2022-23 season. It is a 3-x-3.5-inch patch positioned on the upper right chest area of the jersey.

The NHL allowed teams to begin selling ad space on jerseys during the summer, but they won’t begin showing up on uniforms until the 2022-23 season.

The Capitals are believed to be the first franchise in the four major U.S. sports leagues — NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — to sell jersey sponsorship to a gambling venture. Major League Soccer incorporated sports gambling sponsors on its jerseys in 2019.

Gambling advertisements on uniforms have been commonplace in leagues overseas, but that could be changing. In the United Kingdom’s more mature betting market, regulators are looking for ways to reduce gambling’s presence in sports. A review of gambling laws by the U.K. Gambling Commission is expected to be released later this year, and will reportedly include a ban on gambling ads on jerseys.

Nine of the 20 EPL teams have gambling ads on the front of their jerseys.

NHL teams were restricted to one ad on their jerseys, to go along with one on the helmet, which is a program that began in the 2019-20 season. While teams were prohibited from selling sportsbook ads during the first two seasons of the helmet sponsorship program, the NHL said that gambling ads would be allowed on helmets and jerseys beginning in the 2022-23 season.

The Capitals’ partnership with Caesars falls within the NHL’s regulation guidelines for gambling ads on jerseys. The ads can only be sold in markets where single-game sports betting is legal, and cannot appear on away uniforms.

“We don’t want that jersey going to away markets where it’s not legal,” Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s chief business officer and senior executive vice president, told ESPN last month.

The jersey ad patch extends a historic partnership between Caesars and the Capitals. Caesars Sportsbook at Capital One Arena opened in May 2021, becoming the first sports betting venue to open within a U.S. professional sports facility. The two-story, 18,000 square-foot venue features 17 betting windows and 12 self-service betting kiosks.

The NHL has been aggressively making deals with gambling ventures after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision nullified the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2019, ushering in unprecedented levels of legalized sports wagering around the nation.

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have launched legal sports betting markets. Several more are gearing up to enter the bookmaking business, and marketing of the once-taboo industry is intensifying.

The NHL has forged partnerships with several sportsbooks. Its first deal was with MGM Resorts, followed by partnerships with DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill, PointsBet and Bally’s, among others.

Hockey’s foray into the sports gambling space is expected to expand dramatically thanks to puck- and player-tracking technology that’s being rolled out in the 2021-22 season. The data generated by the tracking sensors — and licensed to bookmakers like MGM — is expected to create an entirely new subset of prop bets on NHL games.

“I think sports gambling is the future of our business. I think it’s here and it’s only going to continue to get bigger. There’s no stopping that freight train now,” Brad Alberts, Dallas Stars president, told ESPN last month.

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