One of the biggest online poker sponsorship deals in history was signed last week. The New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers came to an agreement with bwin.party, which will see both teams advertise the New Jersey-based Party Poker.
The NBA and NHL don’t have a problem with these deals because they have nothing to do with sports betting. Even still, some American sports purists worry that aligning with an online gaming company will give basketball and hockey a bad reputation. But Scott O’Neil, who’s the chief executive of both the 76ers and Devils, isn’t worried about the deals hampering his teams.
“This doesn’t seem like we’re breaking any taboos,” he said. “I think for us the most important thing is being with a partner that can really engage our fans in a smart way, and someone who understands for those of our fans who do play poker and those that are inclined for gaming whether they come to concerts here or a Sixers’ game or a Devils’ game they will be treated like a royal flush, if you will.”
While sports teams signing online sponsorship deals with gaming companies may be new to the US, it is not, however, anything new for bwin.party. The internet gaming giant has already inked deals with legendary football (soccer) teams like Manchester United and Real Madrid. And so far, these partnerships have went very well.
Even still, bwin.party CEO Norbert Teufelberger realizes that the issue may be a little more sensitive with American sports fans. “We have learned over the many years, with Real Madrid and Manchester and Bayern, and especially here in this country where it’s such a controversial topic, that we’re not just selling toothpaste,” Teufelberger said. “We’re selling a product that can be viewed as very problematic. It has to be engaging, it has to be entertaining, but it shouldn’t be addictive.”
As many online gamblers around the world know, gaming addiction is greatly exaggerated when concerning the masses. Studies have shown that only around 1% of those who gamble are considered “problem gamblers.” So perhaps sports teams aligning with online poker sites will help bring some of the facts to surface.