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What Bally’s Big TV & Sportsbook Moves Mean for U.S. Sports Betting

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George Rose/Getty Images. Pictured: Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas.

One of gaming’s most venerable brands is poised to expand into new markets that seemed unimaginable just a few years ago.

Bally’s, the pinball maker-turned-casino conglomerate, is acquiring naming rights to nearly two dozen regional sports networks as well as an online sportsbook platform in two separate transactions announced this week.

Itself acquired earlier this year by Twin River entertainment, which took the Bally’s name for its new company, the “new” Bally’s has grown from a handful of casinos to a major player in the growing U.S. sports betting industry in just a few weeks.

The expanded company’s influence will be mostly intangible in the immediate future, but its impact will be felt across most of the country.

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TV Networks Expand Sports Betting Media Exposure

Bally’s announced it will have naming rights to the former Fox regional sports networks, which were acquired by Sinclair Broadcasting from Fox last year. The RSNs have broadcasting rights for certain MLB, NBA and NHL teams in roughly two-dozen states.

In its announcement Thursday, Bally’s said its “long-term strategic partnership” with Sinclair will create “unrivaled sports gamification content on a national scale.” What that means practically remains to be determined, but it sets up a tremendous exposure for Bally’s products across the two-dozen sports networks and Sinclair’s 190 television stations.

This deal allows the companies to “jointly market, design and integrate products on a state-by-state basis, and deliver one-of-a-kind online gaming experiences to local audiences,” the two companies announced in the press release.

In states with both an RSN and legal sports betting, such as Michigan, the new “Bally’s Sports Detroit” (or whatever name it takes) will likely integrate the company’s pre-game and live betting lines into its broadcasts of Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers games.

States such as Arizona, where sports betting is not legal, the new Bally’s-branded network will likely incorporate some sort of “free-to-play”, “pick ‘em” or “predictor” type games which simulate a betting experience and are legal in that state during the network’s Coyotes, Suns and Diamondbacks broadcasts.

Along with the RSNs, the deal also allows Bally’s content to be displayed on Tennis Channel and the Stadium network. Notably, the naming rights deal did not include the broadcast homes of two of the nation’s most iconic franchises: Marquee Network (Chicago Cubs) and the YES Network (New York Yankees).

States With Legal Betting and Bally’s RSNs

While the deal grants Bally’s increased access to Sinclair’s regional stations, the gambling content presence will most likely be most pronounced on the two-dozen regional sports networks. Viewers and bettors will see increased gambling content before, during and after broadcasts.

The following states with both legal, mobile wagering an existing RSN should see the biggest impact from the deal:

  • Michigan: Michigan will launch online sports betting in late 2020 or early 2021, likely near the start of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons respective 2020-2021 seasons. FOX Sports Detroit broadcasts those teams’ games as well as the Detroit Tigers.
  • Iowa: Though there are no professional sports teams in Iowa, FOX RSN’s in other states are taken up in the Hawkeye State. Iowa launched its first online sportsbooks in fall 2019.
  • Indiana: Another Midwestern state with a fall 2019 sports betting launch, FOX Sports Indiana broadcasts Indiana Pacers games
  • Illinois: Though Chicago teams aren’t covered in any of the Bally’s deals, residents in some parts of Illinois are still exposed to FOX Midwest, which broadcasts the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues. Illinois launched its first online sportsbooks in 2020.
  • Tennessee: Fox Tennessee broadcasts Memphis Grizzlies and Nashville Predators games. The latest sports betting market to go live, Tennessee is the first online-only sports betting state and could have has many as seven statewide mobile books live by the end of 2020.

North Carolina (FOX Southeast and FOX Carolinas) has already legalized retail sports betting at two Native American casinos but doesn’t permit statewide online wagering.

Louisiana (FOX New Orleans) and South Dakota (Minnesota-based FOX North) will likely both have legal sports betting sometime in 2021, though it remains to be seen if online wagering will be included. Ohio (FOX Ohio and Sportstime Ohio) could pass a sports betting bill as early as this year.

The deal also includes RSNs covering teams in California, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin. Lawmakers in all these states have considered sports betting legalization, but it remains to be seen when — or if — legal wagering will be approved.

Bally’s Bet.Works Acquisition Shapes Sports Betting Plans

Bally’s also announced in a separate deal it had acquired sports betting platform Bet.Works, which serves operators in New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana and Colorado. This gives the company the digital infrastructure for its own branded sportsbook.

It remains to be seen when or even if “BetBally’s” (or whatever name it takes for itself) will reach bettors, but the aggressive moves indicate Bally’s looks to be a major player in the national sports betting expansion race.

Bally’s, when it was known as Twin River before the latter company acquired it last month, previously partnered with other operators for its casinos’ sportsbooks, including William Hill for its two Rhode Island properties and Circa Sportsbook for its Golden Gate Casino in Colorado. It’s too early to tell what the Bet.Works acquisition means for those deals, but it could set up a Bally’s branded sports betting option for a new wave of properties the company is taking over.

In a move that both foreshadowed and catalyzed Bally’s aggressive acquisitions, Eldorado Resorts acquired Caesars Entertainment earlier this year. To gain regulatory approval, the “new” Caesars was forced to spin off several retail properties, which the former Twin River gobbled up, setting up this week’s avalanche of developments.

Bally’s will take control of the following properties, all of which are in states with legal retail and online sports betting – and could host a potential Bally’s-branded sportsbook:

  • Tropicana Evansville (Evansville, Indiana)
  • Jumer’s Casino and Hotel (Rock Island, Illinois)
  • Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa (Lake Tahoe, Nevada)
  • Eldorado Shreveport Resort (Shreveport, Louisiana) – betting was approved by state voters but still needs legislative approval

In addition to three casinos and a horse track in Colorado as well as its two casinos in Rhode Island, Bally’s operates two casinos in Mississippi, one in New Jersey and one in Delaware, all states which have legal sports betting. A 10th property, Casino KC in Kansas City, Missouri, is not allowed to take sports wagers as lawmakers have not passed a law to do so.

In total, Bally’s will own and operate 14 casinos in 10 states, eight of which currently permit legal sports betting.

The full force of a seismic week in regulated gaming remains to be seen, but Bally’s media and sportsbook acquisitions set it up to be another major player in the fast-growing American sports betting market.

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