Las Vegas Casino Owner Purchases National Hockey League Team

Jun 28

Glendale, Arizona - Alex Meruelo, the owner of the SLS Las Vegas hotel and casino, has been given the green light by the National Hockey League, to buy a majority stake of the Arizona Coyotes.

While terms of the deal have not been made available to the public, sources say that the price Meruelo paid may be at least $300m (£236m). The deal will not be made final until July.

Arizona’s NHL team has been in dire straits, struggling with meager attendance, never having finished better than 28th out of 31 teams since the 2006-2007 season. The plan is for the new owner to relocate the squad to a new location or come up with some ingenious way to bring fans in to attend the games that are held at the Gila River Arena in Glendale.

The NHL possesses a lot of faith in the gambling sector, allowing a team to move to Las Vegas in 2017. If Arizona legalizes sports betting and it’s available at the arena, it just might be a feasible way to get more people to attend the Coyotes’ games.

A lot of the team’s fortunes now hinge on Meruelo — a Cuban-American entrepreneur and billionaire who has a wide range of business interests, including a real estate and construction company called the Meruelo Group; a television station, and five radio stations in Los Angeles.

Meruelo has had previous experience turning around businesses that were struggling to stay afloat. In 2011, he took over the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, made substantial changes and it is now considered to be the biggest hotel in that market.

He is virtually doing the same for the SLS Las Vegas, which will soon be transformed into the Sahara Hotel and Casino. It got nearly shelved for good before Meruelo came to its rescue.

He has previously tried to purchase a stake in a sports team in one of the major markets of the United States. In 2011, he tried to buy into the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks but was unsuccessful.

For a long time, the NHL joined forces with the other major US sports leagues in a bid to stop legal sports betting. However, their campaign proved futile when a Supreme Court ruling ended the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018.

Since then, the NHL has been looking to get its own slice of the lucrative pie. The league’s first official gaming partner was MGM Resorts International. As is standard in such collaborations, MGM Resorts can utilize the NHL logo in its advertising collaterals and can have access to exclusive league data.

What is impressive about the exclusive data is that it is actually gathered by the puck during NHL games. This data goes instantly to MGM’s sportsbook team. Most major sports leagues are looking at a similar means to sell their data to sportsbook operators. MGM Resorts, in turn, helps the NHL with their integrity systems to ensure there are no suspicious betting trends.

The NHL also has dealt with William Hill and FanDuel. According to a Nielsen Sports report, the NHL could stand to make as much as $216m (£170m) a year because of legal sports betting. About $65m (£51m) of this would come from advertising by gambling companies. The fans will benefit from loyalty programs and promotional events where they can win free tickets and merchandise.