The Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA and the New Jersey Devils of the NHL have become the first major U.S.-based professional teams to sign a sponsorship deal with an online gambling company, according to reports in the US media Wednesday.
Party Poker, a subsidiary of the European online gambling group Bwin Party Digital Entertainment, is the online poker company behind the multi-year sponsorship agreement and has an operational subsidiary currently operating in the recently legalised New Jersey online gambling market.
The announcement was made at a press conference Wednesday jointly hosted by Scott O’Neil, the chief executive of the Josh Harris-owned teams, and Norbert Teufelberger, the chief executive of Bwin.Party.
The Philadelphia 76ers are a professional basketball team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whilst the New Jersey Devils are a professional ice hockey team based in Newark, New Jersey.
Sports sponsorships by online gambling companies are common in Europe and Australia.
“This is our flag in the ground that we do things differently,” said O’Neil in a telephone interview with the Bloomberg news organisation. “We’re looking for ground-breaking opportunities with companies willing to take chances.”
Bloomberg reports that businessman Josh Harris, a co-founder of Apollo Global Management LLC, bought the 76ers in 2011, and assumed control of the Devils last year.
The Sixers are worth $418 million, 20th in the 30-team NBA, according to Forbes Magazine. The Devils are worth $320 million, also 20th out of 30 clubs, Forbes said.
O’Neil said there are 60 million online poker players in the U.S., and that 2 million people a year attended events at the Prudential Center.
“We have this moment in time that allows a company like ours, which is unique, which frames New Jersey, a pretty incredible opportunity,” O’Neil said.
National Football League and Major League Soccer teams in the USA are prohibited from taking on internet gambling sponsorships, but this does not apply in the case of the NBA, where 28 teams have land casino sponsorships and 20 have agreements with lotteries.
“As long as the gambling site doesn’t include sports gambling or sports betting it’s now allowed within our rules,” a spokesman said.
The agreement with PartyPoker is believed to include brand signage at home games and broadcast privileges, along with promotional initiatives that could include premier seating and box as competition prizes and other initiatives.