Poker has long desired to enter the mainstream, especially in the States of America. One of the ways to do that is through sponsorship deals with companies and organizations that are in that mainstream area. PokerStars has pulled off such a deal, becoming only the second online poker operation to join forces with a team in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Original Six Team Taps PokerStars for Partnership

The franchise in question is the eleven-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, who announced last week that they would sign on with PokerStars for a sponsorship deal. The agreement is expected to cover several years and ensures that PokerStars’ branding will be prominent around Little Caesar’s Arena, where the Wings play their home games. It is a deal that both sides see as beneficial.

“This is a partnership that our fans, especially poker players, will really enjoy,” the President & Chief Executive Officer of Ilitch Sports & Entertainment Chris McGowan said during the announcement of the new partnership. “It’s great to see PokerStars’ branding on the ice level at Little Caesars Arena, and we’re very appreciative of their support.” Severin Rasset, the Marketing Director for PokerStars in the U. S., was equally excited, stating, “We are extremely proud and excited to build a long-term relationship with such an iconic NHL team as the Detroit Red Wings. Through this partnership, we look forward to delivering epic experiences for our PokerStars community, expanding on what we can offer our Michigan based players, as well as those across the rest of the U. S.”

PokerStars has proven to be one of the viable online poker sites in the states where it is allowed to operate. It ranks behind only the Pennsylvania PokerStars offering in seven-day player average with 160 and is in the Top Five overall. The sponsorship deal will ensure that PokerStars is emblazoned around the arena, and on the ice, and will also promote responsible gaming in the Michigan online gaming industry, and the Detroit Red Wings pick up a sponsorship ally and inroad into perhaps a previously untapped market – poker players.

Many Sports Franchises, Leagues Partnering with Gaming Companies

The deal between the Wings and PokerStars is not the first time an NHL franchise has teamed up with an online poker site per se. Back in 2014, partypoker signed an agreement with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils to be the “official gaming partner” of the franchise. It also stretched over to another popular sports team, the Philadelphia 76ers, who were also a part of the deal.

More and more professional sports franchises and leagues in the U. S. are beginning to see the value in partnerships with gaming entities. Every major sports league in the States – the NHL, the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Football League (NFL) – have signed daily fantasy sports (DFS) deals with either DraftKings or FanDuel. Additionally, other sports teams such as the Houston Astros (BetMGM), Dallas Cowboys (WinStar Casino), and even the Washington Mystics of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA, with Caesars) have obtained sponsorship deals with major online gaming companies.

This is commonplace in the sporting world in Europe. According to statistics provided by the governing body of football (soccer), UEFA, 19% of all sponsorships in the European arena are associated with a gaming company. That doesn’t mean that everyone is happy with it, however; La Liga, the premier Spanish football league, banned such sponsorship deals just last year. Yet the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, and others still enjoy lucrative gaming deals.

As gaming slowly becomes more prevalent across the States of America, it is likely that more professional sports franchises – and their respective leagues – will see the value in sponsorship deals with gaming entities. But how long will it take before the government starts to examine the issue more closely and perhaps quash future deals?

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