NHL’s Shane Pinto speaks as gambling-related suspension winds down

NHL Suspension Return

Ottawa Senators center Shane Pinto is preparing for a return to the ice after becoming the first NHL player to be suspended for activities related to sports betting.

Pinto, who violated the NHL’s gambling policy for undisclosed reasons, received a 41-game suspension — the equivalent of half of an NHL season. The NHL, which allows players to bet on other sports, found no evidence of Pinto placing wagers on his own NHL team or league games.

“I don’t want to get into too much detail about it [the suspension] but I was definitely caught off guard,” Pinto told media on Friday. “It just kind of came out of nowhere and went from there.”

Pinto, who entered the 2023-24 NHL season as a restricted free agent, is set to sign a one-year, $850,000 qualifying offer from the Senators ahead of his return to the ice on Jan. 21. Pinto, who is 23 years old, finished last season with 35 points and is looking to put the suspension behind him.

“A lot of maturing went on during these last couple of months, honestly,” continued Pinto. “I grew up a lot off the ice and I think that’s only going to help me on the ice.”

Growing relationship between NHL and gambling companies

Pinto received a suspension despite the NHL having deep ties in the gambling industry.

In 2022, FanDuel and BetMGM were named the first North American sports betting operators to secure a partnership with the NHL. As part of the deals, FanDuel and BetMGM were awarded rights to official NHL branding with integrations across the league’s various media channels.

Last month, BetMGM landed a multiyear partnership extension with the NHL. The extension includes BetMGM’s operations throughout Canada and its parent company MGM Resorts’ casino business.

BetMGM, which is a joint venture between Entain and MGM Resorts, announced in 2022 that it would produce NHL-themed casino games. Last month, BetMGM debuted NHL Gold Blitz in partnership with Digital Gaming Corporation — the first ever NHL-endorsed online slot game.

The NHL also has sports betting deals with PENN Entertainment. The pacts provide the NHL with access to PENN subsidiaries theScore Bet and ESPN Bet — a rebrand from Barstool Sportsbook.