When the New Jersey Devils take the ice, fans will soon have the option of watching their game as well as other live games from a lounge area that looks and feels like a sportsbook.
As part of becoming a team sponsor, sportsbook operator William Hill will have its name on a Prudential Center lounge where games can be watched on more than 20 screens with odds boards displaying the menu of betting options across all sports.
Because the NHL is not comfortable with the venue being an actual sportsbook where bets can be placed at windows and kiosks, William Hill US CEO Joe Asher told ESPN that company ambassadors will assist bettors in downloading William Hill's betting app. The space is being converted and rebranded quickly, but there is currently no opening date.
Odds will be displayed not only within the sports lounge but also on the team's 4-story scoreboard. The lounge will be open for every event in the venue, including concerts. That's a lot of exposure, as Billboard ranked the venue 10th in the world on its Arena Power List earlier this month.
"Our goal has always been to make Prudential Center the home of sports and entertainment in New Jersey, but ultimately our mission is to create the most dynamic fan experience in the industry today, and the William Hill Sports Lounge will play a part in amplifying fan experience here," said Hugh Weber, president of the Devils' ownership group, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment.
William Hill, which operates more sportsbooks than any other company in the country thanks to its 108 locations in Nevada, has been aggressive in New Jersey since May, when the Supreme Court allowed states to make their own decisions regarding sports betting after ruling that parts of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 were unconstitutional.
The company became the first operator of a sportsbook in the state when it opened at Monmouth Park racetrack on June 14. But competition is fierce within the state, which is projected to surpass Nevada in sports gambling handle and revenue.
Daily fantasy sites DraftKings and FanDuel, armed with a healthy database, were among the first to launch apps on which fans could bet as long as it was done within state lines. FanDuel followed up with its first sportsbook at the Meadowlands, on the grounds where the New York Jets and Giants play, that opened a month after William Hill's racetrack location debuted.
"We're spending a considerable amount of marketing dollars in New Jersey," Asher said. "It is going to be a very competitive and expensive landscape for the next couple of years. A think a lot of companies in the space feel the need to push hard in the state as a testing ground to prove they can be everywhere. In a way, it's like the Iowa caucuses in politics."
While New Jersey is now one of five states that has legalized sports betting -- along with Nevada, Delaware, Mississippi and West Virginia -- it is the fastest-growing state. In the first four months after sports betting was legalized, New Jersey took in $336.6 million in wagers, according to the state's Division of Gaming Enforcement.
"I said that, when fully mature, the New Jersey sports betting market would double that of Nevada," Asher said. "It's early days, but I could see how even that is being conservative."
William Hill is now one of eight companies that offer mobile betting on devices within the state.
The Devils will be the second team with a sportsbook sponsorship, joining the Vegas Golden Knights, who are also sponsored by William Hill.
William Hill to run betting lounge at Prudential Center
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