Connor McDavid: First Sportsbook Ambassador to Win a Trophy While Active?

A whole new category of firsts opened when legal sports betting began spreading across the United States and Canada.

Among them was who would pioneer the once-unthinkable and still-nettlesome practice of endorsing sportsbooks while still competing.

Now, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid could become the first active sportsbook ambassador to win a championship since this odd opportunity arose. That’s if the Florida Panthers leave the center as much room to maneuver as Ontario gambling regulations.

Connor McDavid gambling ads
AP Photo. Brant James illustration
Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid is a BetMGM brand ambassador.

Major League Baseball, then the National Hockey League, and finally the National Basketball Association allowed active players to seek these new branding opportunities through collective bargaining agreements. The National Football League isn’t there yet.

Charlie Blackmon, a veteran outfielder with the Colorado Rockies, became the first active pro athlete in North America to capitalize in April of 2022 when he signed an ambassadorial deal with MaximBet. His endorsements kept him, by rule away from shilling lines or touting picks and were confined to Colorado. Then MaximBet folded that November. No other active MLB player has followed, perhaps because the first experiment flopped, or possibly because in an era when MLB players claim they’re receiving death threats from miscreants with busted parlays, jumping on a sportsbook’s payroll is unwise.

Lebron James is so far the only NBA player to align with one, announcing a content and endorsement deal with DraftKings in February.


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A post shared by Connor McDavid (@mcdavid97)

The NHL rushed in harder. Between Blackmon and James in 2022 came Toronto’s Auston Matthews – the 2022 Hart Trophy winner as league MVP – with BET99 and McDavid, a three-time and defending Hart-winner, with BetMGM. The Leafs’ John Tavares also aligned with Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s PROLINE+ sportsbook app that year.

Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario rules from the outset prohibited these national hockey stars from wearing gambling company logos or being much more than logos themselves. Retired legend Wayne Gretzky did all the heavy lifting in ads with McDavid. Subsequent guidelines banned the appearance of athletes or celebrities in anything but responsible gambling content. Ontario residents had apparently grown as weary of sportsbook advertising as residents in American jurisdictions. Some aren’t huge fans of the responsible gambling ones, either.

They should probably brace themselves in case BetMGM’s brand ambassador hoists a Cup.

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Lead Writer
Brant James is a lead writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times,, espnW,, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

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