Exclusive: The NHL Draft in Las Vegas – Experts Explain Its Impact on Hockey Betting

Experts weigh in on how the extravagant event at the Sphere complex might influence gambling trends in the city known for its wagering culture. Discover how Las Vegas's evolving role in major sports and the state of hockey betting are intertwined.

Gregory Austin
Gregory Austin

Last Updated: 2024-07-01

Louis Hobbs

8 minutes read

Since acquiring its first Big 4 team in 2017, Las Vegas has opened its gates to host several lavish sporting events. But will the added spectacle influence the gambling that makes the city famous?

The NHL Draft Live in Las Vegas

Sphere Entertainment and the National Hockey League have collaborated for months to make the 2024-25 NHL draft an extravagant and memorable undertaking. Mere days after the Florida Panthers raised Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time, representatives from all thirty-two hockey teams headed to Vegas for the next phase. Always an exciting weekend for hockey fans, this year’s draft had higher ambitions.

The Vision

The creative minds behind the state-of-the-art Sphere complex on the Vegas Strip have dreams of redefining entertainment. Already featuring imaginative concerts from legacy bands U2, Phish, and Dead and Co., as well as Darren Aronofsky’s surreal nature film Postcard from Earth, the Sphere Studios team is adept at creating unique atmospheres.

In a statement released to, Sphere’s President and COO, Jennifer Koester, revealed how her team is “focused on pushing the boundaries of technology and creativity” to prop up partners like the NHL with strategic enhancements.

Image Credits: KSNV

Image Credits: KSNV

Airing Inside and Out

This year’s draft was Sphere's first televised event and the first draft to air key live moments on the venue’s exterior. Over the past several years, Las Vegas had the opportunity to host the 2022-23 NFL Draft, a street circuit Formula 1 race, and Super Bowl LVIII.

Those events featured satellite activities, and neighboring businesses offered tie-in promotions before and after their ceremonies. Never before had Vegas, or other hosts, attempted to include locals, tourists, and passersby during the main event.

The NHL’s Chief Content Officer, Steve Mayer, aimed to welcome young players and their families with an unforgettable introduction inside “the most innovative venue in the world.”

Prior to acquiring an NHL expansion team, the local favorite Golden Knights, Las Vegas stayed on the periphery of the Big 4 sports, heavily focused on gambling. However, with the acquisition of the NFL Raiders and aspirations to expand into the MLB and NBA, the city comfortably transitioned into a front-facing role.

The State of Hockey Wagering

Insiders remain wary of this newfound spectacle’s influence on the bottom line. Caesar Digital’s In-Play Hockey Lead, Karry Shreeve, appreciates the fun venue and sees the value in professional sports leagues presenting their drafts as events rather than an obligatory step on the league’s calendar.

“In terms of actual impact on hockey wagering, at least this season, I don’t see it,” Shreeve told He is, however, confident in the rise of hockey betting for reasons that transcend the spectacle.

Hockey gambling markets have been available for years thanks to European betting and the institution of Las Vegas. Legalized sports betting is currently entering its Renaissance in the United States.

Not long ago, US citizens could only wager on sports in Nevada, parts of New Jersey, and participating Native American reservations. With numerous state governments legalizing the practice and access growing thanks to online apps, the sheer number of people participating is the true advancement.

Live betting and technology will allow for more distinct markets, but the bettors themselves will dictate which markets they desire.

Following the current market trends, Shreeve noted that markets correlated to empty net goals are the most popular bets during the regular season, while simply betting on a team to win is most prevalent during the playoffs.

The Celebrini Variable

Other factors that lessened the allure of this year’s draft for Shreeve and other hockey experts involved timing and uncontrollable variants. For the second year in a row, the first overall pick was a foregone conclusion.

Eighteen-year-old Canadian phenom Macklin Celebrini was the consensus pick, leaving much to be desired for the gambling markets.

Shreeve believes the NBA and NFL drafts will always draw a larger crowd because of the popularity of their NCAA counterparts and stated, “We know the QBs, receivers, and running backs because we watched them at our favorite schools for 3-4 years.”

The NHL, however, relies on international prospects more than any other league, and their collegiate games don’t get the exposure awarded to other sports. There was also very little time for media hype this year since the Stanley Cup was decided on the Monday before the draft. Compared to the NFL, which has more than two months after their championship to hype their draft classes, hockey loses before the game begins.

Gregory Austin
Gregory Austin Sports Writer

Gregory Austin has been a freelance writer and fiction writing instructor for over a decade, and his deep-rooted interest in sports culture has been a lifelong passion. His journalistic career has spanned a diverse range of topics, from legal matters and privacy to novels and anime. In the fiction realm, several of his short stories have been published, as well as one novel.