After a long and hard-fought court case pitting New Jersey against the nation’s major pro sports leagues, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the federal sports betting prohibition unconstitutional in May 2018.
That pivotal ruling cleared the way for individual states to legalize sports betting, and numerous states have jumped on the opportunity since then. For the first time decades, we now have legal NHL betting in states other than Nevada.
As additional states consider similar legislation of their own, a growing number of people will gain access to legal in-person and online NHL betting. Let’s begin with a quick look at the best places to bet on the NHL online and then proceed with a detailed review of the current sports betting landscape in the USA.
Best NHL Betting Sites
Like the other major pro sports leagues, the NHL has followed the development of legal sports betting very closely over recent years and has fine-tuned its position over that time. The NHL has said it opposes the Supreme Court decision, but not due to a general opposition to legalization. Instead, the NHL supports federal regulation.
The short version is that the NHL no longer holds a general anti-gambling stance. The Supreme Court let that horse out of the barn when it issued its decision striking down the federal sports betting ban. The NHL has now taken to accepting the reality of the situation and pouncing on the lucrative opportunities promised by a legal sports betting market.
Whatever misgivings it may have regarding the state-by-state approach to legalization, the NHL has shown no hesitation in striking deals with major gaming companies for advertising, sponsorships and live betting data.
In some ways, the NHL has come to embrace legal sports betting more than any other major sports league. The NHL was the first major sports league to approve a team in Las Vegas and it was the first to approve a “sports lounge” dedicated to assisting fans placing mobile bets from inside an NHL arena.
States with Legal NHL Betting
NHL betting is legal in every state filled with color on the following map. We keep this map up to date and will continue to fill in additional states as they pass sports betting legislation.
States with legal sports betting
- Blue states: Online, mobile and in-person sports betting is legal
- Green states: In-person sports betting is legal
- Red states: Online and mobile betting only
- Orange states: Sports betting has been legalized, but additional legislation is needed before betting may commence
Nevada’s monopoly over sports betting came to an end in May 2018 when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional. PASPA was enacted in 1992 to prevent any further expansion of sports betting by prohibiting any additional states from following Nevada’s lead and legalizing sports betting.
The Supreme Court’s decision was anticipated to a degree, and a number of states had drawn up legislation in anticipation of the ruling. Thus, multiple states were able to move quickly after PASPA was stricken down. Legislation has been filed in additional states, so we expect to see sports betting continue to spread across the US.
If your state has not yet legalized sports betting:
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) are the next best thing to legal sports betting. DFS sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings host daily contests throughout the entire NHL season and issue real money payouts across the thousands of hockey contests held every year. Most importantly, DFS sites are legal in almost all 50 states today.
The DFS experience is similar to sports betting in one key way: every NHL game takes on greater importance because your results depend on the outcomes of real-world games. Today’s DFS contests award thousands of dollars (sometimes hundreds of thousands) to those who perform well.
See our DFS guide for more information on how fantasy sports work and what you need to know to get started today.
The Impact of Legal Sports Betting on the NHL
Although the NHL has in the past expressed skepticism regarding the legalization of sports betting, the league is still positioned to make the most of the new reality. According a study conducted by Nielsen Sports and commissioned by the American Gaming Association, the NHL stands to gain an additional $216 million in new revenues as a result of widespread legal sports betting.
The study, which based its projections on sports betting becoming widely available across the United States, came up with that number by considering new revenue deriving from increased fan engagement and direct payments from the gaming industry in the form of sponsorships, advertising and product fees (such as data agreements).
First, the study considered indirect benefits based on fans becoming more engaged. Prior surveys conducted by Nielsen have found that people who bet on sports tend to be more engaged in viewing sports, checking sports websites and so on.
Increased engagement in this manner provides financial benefits to the league by driving up its viewership numbers, which in turn drive up advertising sales. In all, Nielsen estimates the NHL could see $151 million in indirect financial benefits due to increased fan engagement alone.
Nielsen also predicts an additional $65 million per year resulting from gaming companies paying money directly to the leagues for sponsorship deals, advertising rights and product fees such as real-time betting data that operators need for their in-play betting markets.
The NHL has already gotten a taste of the financial potential with agreements signed between individual teams and the league itself with established gaming providers. Some of the first such agreements were signed within months of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down PASPA:
- NHL and the NJ Devils each sign separate agreements with FanDuel
- NHL names MGM Resorts “official gaming partner”
- William Hill strikes agreement with NJ Devils for “sports betting lounge” at Prudential Center Arena
- William Hill signs partnership agreement with Vegas Golden Knights
The numbers behind these sorts of deals are rarely released, but the fact that the NHL moved so quickly to form such deals goes to show the money is there. As additional states legalize sports betting, the NHL will continue to reap the financial rewards.
How the NHL Has Changed Its Position on Sports Betting
The NHL’s stance on legal sports betting has evolved over time from one of outright opposition to one of careful embrace. It was not all that long ago that the NHL joined the other major pro sports leagues in challenging New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports betting.
The NHL and other leagues argued that New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports betting was a direct violation of PASPA, which effectively made it illegal for any state except Nevada to legalize and regulate sports betting. The leagues were correct in that contention, but New Jersey challenged PASPA itself as unconstitutional.
The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court with the NHL fighting New Jersey every step of the way. The Supreme Court ended up siding with New Jersey and ruled PASPA unconstitutional. Within days of the decision, the NHL had already begun changing its tune.
Here is the NHL’s official statement as it was issued on the day of the ruling:
“The Supreme Court’s decision today paves the way to an entirely different landscape – one in which we have not previously operated. We will review our current practices and policies and decide whether adjustments are needed, and if so, what those adjustments will look like. It’s important to emphasize that the Supreme Court’s decision has no immediate impact on existing League rules relating to sports wagering, and particularly, wagering involving NHL games. So, while changes may be considered in the future, today’s decision does not directly impact the operation of the League or any of our Clubs in the short term.”
A single quote from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman uttered a week after the Supreme Court’s decision efficiently previewed the NHL’s evolving stance on betting:
“The Supreme Court has spoken and we need to deal with the realities of our world.”
Since then, the NHL has come to accept and even embrace sports betting more than any other league so far. The agreement between the NJ Devils and William Hill that established the “William Hill Sports Lounge” in Prudential Center arena was the first of its kind for any professional sports team in the United States.
That deal was also emblematic of the league’s changing stance on sports betting. Less than a year prior to that deal, Gary Bettman was mulling over asking casinos located within a certain distance of Prudential Center not to accept wagers on Golden Knights home games out of a desire to keep an arm’s length distance between hockey and sports betting.
The placement of the William Hill Sports Lounge at Prudential Center goes to show just how far the NHL has changed in its approach to sports betting. The William Hill sports lounge is not an actual sportsbook, but it does place a clear emphasis on sports betting via mobile devices – complete with William Hill representatives on-site to assist fans in placing mobile wagers.
NHL Also Supports Federal Sports Betting Regulation
The NHL has not been as adamant as some of the other leagues in pushing for federal regulation and integrity fees, but league commissioner Gary Bettman has made it clear he would prefer to see standardized regulations across the country – whether that be done by Congress or by the states all coming together to form consistent regulations.
As far as integrity fees go, Gary Bettman has been admirably honest about what the league wants from the beginning. While other leagues initially cast integrity fees as something necessary to protect their games from corruption, Gary Bettman has made it clear from the beginning that he sees any such fees as akin to a royalty payment.
Here’s what he said shortly after the Supreme Court issued its ruling on the New Jersey case:
“The first is we’re looking for consistency. Whether that can be done federally, which would make it easier to make sure the rules of the game, the types of bets that are being placed, how things are being conducted, we’d like consistency, and we’d like not to have it vary state by state. Now, if all the states want to come together and do the same thing, that would be the equivalent of federal legislation, and that’s something that we’re focused on.
“I’m not sure I buy the term integrity fee. I don’t worry about the integrity of our players. I think, though, if you’re going to allocate for yourself to run a business on our intellectual property and the performance of our athletes and the platform that we put on for our games, we’re entitled to be involved in that.”
Best NHL Betting Sites
Finding NHL betting sites in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling is becoming easier by the month as additional states proceed with legalization and additional options open to fans across the country.
One of the biggest benefits this wave of legalization has brought to fans is the emergence of legal and licensed NHL betting sites for the first time ever in this country’s history. Prior to May 2018, the only places to bet on the NHL online were offshore sportsbooks that operated contrary to US law and that provided none of the safeguards offered by modern, regulated sportsbooks.
The sports betting landscape has changed significantly since then and finally, US citizens have legitimate options right here at home. We still have a long way to go before we can consider online betting widespread, but things are moving in that direction.
For those of you who do live in a state with legal online betting (see our map above), here are some considerations to keep in mind as you choose where to take your action.
Look for a License
The most important thing in choosing a betting site (whether it be for the NHL or any other sport) is to make sure you go with one that is legal and licensed in your state. As long as you place your wagers at a licensed sportsbook headquartered in the United States, you cannot go too far wrong.
The competitive landscape in most states has pushed betting sites to keep their lines competitive and bonuses fairly even across the board. A lot of the decision comes down to personal preference once you have a selection of licensed betting sites to choose from.
In most states, you can find a list of licensed sites published somewhere on the state regulator’s website. For example, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) keeps an updated list of all licensed betting sites here.
Licensed betting sites in most states also display some sort of official seal of approval, but it’s best to check with the regulator yourself because anyone can put up an official-looking seal on a website. Here’s what the seal of approval looks like for betting sites licensed in New Jersey:
Consider Special Relationships Between Sportsbooks and the NHL
One of the early trends we’re seeing since the first few states legalized sports betting is individual NHL teams forming partnerships with major gaming companies. Sometimes these partnerships include special provisions designed to benefit specific betting sites.
For example, FanDuel Sportsbook’s deal with the NHL grants FanDuel access to real-time data straight from the league that will assist greatly in providing in-play betting markets to FanDuel Sportsbook customers.
Any betting sites without similar deals in place are likely to have fewer in-play betting opportunities during NHL games. If you’re the type of bettor who enjoys betting during games, that would be an important thing to take into consideration.
On the other hand, that same deal also included a concession from FanDuel allowing the NHL to have a say on what types of wagers may be offered (the NHL does not like wagers it views as easily corruptible). This may impact your decision if you tend to like lots of props and in-play wagers that deal with single athletes.
Something else we’re likely to see more of in the future are agreements between individual teams and certain sportsbooks that will involve exclusive cross-promotional efforts. This is something we saw happen often when fantasy sports sites went on an advertising tear back in 2014-2015.
Many more deals are likely to be struck over coming months and years, so you may eventually find it easier to simply visit a few betting sites and compare them side-by-side yourself to see which offer the best lines, promotions and experience for your personal preferences.
How to Bet on the NHL Online
Learning how to bet on the NHL online is a matter of first understanding how the odds work and then becoming familiar with the various types of bets that are offered. Once you have an understanding of the odds, you shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out all the rest.
So, let’s start with a quick explanation of how the odds work and then discuss some of the most common types of wagers you are likely to encounter online.
How NHL Odds Work
In the United States, all NHL bets are offered in the moneyline odds format by default. The term moneyline also refers to the most common type of bet, which is a moneyline wager on who will win an upcoming hockey game.
The easiest way to explain how moneyline odds work is with an example. Below is a screenshot from a real moneyline wager that was offered on a game between the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks:
In this wager, we know the NJ Devils are the underdogs in this matchup due to them having positive odds (+155). This means that for every $100 wagered on the Devils, you will win $155 if the Devils go on to win the game.
On the other side of the wager, we can see the SJ Sharks are the favorites due to them having negative odds (-195). This means you need to risk $195 for every $100 in winnings.
You can also break it down to $1.00 increments if that’s easier. For the Devils, you stand to win $1.55 for every $1.00 wagered. For the Sharks, you stand to win $1.00 for every $1.95 wagered.
Moneyline odds are fairly straightforward, but it is not always as intuitive when you plan to wager odd amounts such as $28 or $50.44 for example. The good news is modern NHL betting sites provide a digital betting slip to show how much you stand to win before you confirm any wager.
Any time you select a wager at an online sportsbook, a digital betting slip will appear for you to type in your wager amount. After you fill in your intended bet size, the betting slip will show exactly how much you stand to win. For example, here’s what the betting slip shows if you select the Sharks and input $100 as your wager:
This betting slip shows you’re about to wager $100 on the Sharks at odds of -195. The potential payout of $152 includes both your net winnings and the return of your original wager. In all, you’re looking at a potential profit of $52 off your original $100 wager.
The key takeaways here are that favored teams (the team believed to have the greatest likelihood of winning) are presented with negative moneyline odds. When you bet on a favored team, the tradeoff is that you stand to win a net profit that is less than your original wager.
Likewise, anyone willing to bet on the underdog team is rewarded with positive moneyline odds. That means you stand to win a net profit that is greater than your original wager.
Types of NHL Bets
Once you have a handle on how the odds work, you will find it fairly easy to understand the other types of NHL bets. Online sportsbooks tend to use descriptive terms in describing their wagers, so it’s all fairly straightforward as long as you understand the odds.
Here are some of the types of NHL wagers you will find most often online.
- Moneyline: The phrase “moneyline” also refers to the most common type of NHL wager: a straight-up bet on who will win the game. As you saw in our example above, all you have to do is choose a side and an amount to bet. If your team wins the game, your bet is a winner.
- 60 Minute Line: While the standard moneyline wager includes all potential overtime and shootout implications, the 60-minute line is settled as soon as regular time runs out. In a 60-minute line, you can bet on one team, the other team or on both teams being tied after 60 minutes.
- Puck Line: The puck line is a cross between a regular moneyline wager and a point spread as offered in other sports. NHL betting sites typically set the spread at 1.5 goals, which means the favored team must win by at least 2 goals for any wagers on that team to be considered winners. If you bet on the underdog team, your team can lose by up to one goal and your wager will still be considered a winner. The inclusion of the point spread evens the playing field in an otherwise lopsided matchup.
- Double Chance: This is like a 60-minute line but rather than betting on one of the teams to win, your bet on that team is graded a winner if your chosen team is winning or tied after 60 minutes. The odds aren’t as juicy because these wagers are easier to win, but the upside is that your bet is likelier to win.
- Total Goals: This is a wager on how many goals will be scored in the game by both teams, in total. Your sportsbook may set the total at, say, 6.5 goals and your job is to predict whether the actual number of goals scored will be more than or less than that number.
- Correct Score: You can choose from a number of pre-selected point outcomes and bet that the final score will land on exactly that number for a fairly hefty payout. You’ll see a list of options such as 2-0, 5-0, 0-1, 0-3 and so on, then choose the outcome you want to predict. Payouts for these wagers tend to be on the high side due to the difficulty of predicting a game’s exact score.
- Proposition Bets: Proposition bets (a.k.a. “props”) are a sort of catch-all category of wager that includes all manner of potential outcomes not related to who will win the game. Common types of props include predicting which player will score the first goal, if either team will stage a comeback at some point, whether or not either team will win without allowing a goal and much more.
In-Play NHL Betting Sites
In-play betting differs from our traditional notion of sports betting by allowing wagers to be placed during the game. This simple difference turns traditional sports betting on its head by making every game endlessly interesting and engaging as it makes it possible to turn on a game, watch it live and place short-term wagers throughout the entire game.
This makes for a more engaging experience compared to regular betting, in which all wagers have to be submitted before the game begins. In-play betting keeps things exciting from beginning to end and offers many more opportunities to capitalize on mispriced lines if you know what to look for.
In-play NHL betting options run the gamut from traditional moneyline wagers with odds that are updated in real time as the game progresses to short-term wagers such as who will score the next goal or how many goals will be scored in the second period.
In addition to making games more interesting, in-play betting also facilitates late hedges. For example, if the team you backed before the game gets off to a bad start, you may decide to place a small wager on the opposite team in order to hedge your original bet.
Specific things to look for when choosing in-play betting sites are the number of markets offered during a typical game, how often new wagers are introduced during the game and how quickly your betting site updates its live stats. At some point, we may even see some NHL betting sites begin streaming live game footage – that will be a huge selling point and we plan to note that option if and when it goes live in the US.
Daily Fantasy NHL in the USA
The proliferation of sports betting is picking up in the US, but there’s no need to feel left out if your state has not yet taken advantage of the opportunity. In the years prior to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal sports betting prohibition, daily fantasy sports became a billion-dollar industry of its own and remains a viable alternative to regular wagering today.
Fantasy NHL contests offer many of the same perks as sports betting: you can win real money, put your skills to the test and feel what it’s like to watch a game with money at stake. Some of the mechanics are different, but overall fantasy hockey is not all that different than traditional sports betting.
The biggest difference is fantasy hockey tends to revolve more around individual players rather than whole teams. In a fantasy NHL contest, you build your own team of players and earn points based on each player’s performance in the real world. The better your players do on game day, the more points you earn and the likelier you become to win a significant payout.
Best Fantasy NHL Sites
The trick to finding a good place to play fantasy NHL is to look for DFS sites that have volume. Hockey is a fairly niche sport in an industry that focuses mostly on other sports. Your best bet for fantasy hockey is to sign up at the DFS sites with the most active players.
Smaller fantasy sites have their charm but it’s tough to find games at sites that don’t have loads of customers. The simple fact of the matter is that hockey just doesn’t have much of a following compared to other sports. The news is not all bad, though. There are two apps in particular that are capable of giving you all the action you can handle:
These are the two largest fantasy sites by a wide margin and are home to more fantasy NHL leagues than anywhere else. Additionally, FanDuel and DraftKings are well-established operators that are safe, legal and financially stable. You may find fantasy NHL games elsewhere if you look hard enough, but these two sites are the best bet in terms of contest variety, prize pools and security.