In one week, Bally's has completed one acquisition, made two more offers, and is close to securing a casino in Virginia.

Bally’s To Acquire Gamesys Group For $2.7 Billion, Drive Hard Into Sports Betting, iGaming

There’s no mystery as to what play Bally’s Corporation is calling: It’s driving hard into sports betting and iGaming. One acquisition in particular looks like it may help to break through competitors’ offensive lines. This is Bally’s attempt to purchase of London-based online gaming company Gamesys Group for $2.7 billion.

The Lincoln, RI-based retail casino and racetrack owner emphasized in its Mar. 24 announcement that Gamesys is only a potential acquisition. Nonetheless, Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim implied a certain amount of commitment by terming it a “transformational” combination.

Kim said Bally’s envisions being an omnichannel gaming company “with a B2B2C business.” Acquiring Gamesys will allow Bally’s to bring that company’s technology to a US audience. Having that capacity is necessary if Bally’s plans on “going big or going home” with its online gambling and sports betting game plan.

The possible Gamesys purchase is just one play in a larger game. The company’s been making headlines almost daily, most of them related to mergers and acquisitions.

On Thursday, Bally’s also offered Allied Esports Entertainment $105 million for its poker powerhouse, Club Services. That subsidiary is best known for its World Poker Tour (WPT) brand.

Equity firm Element Partners had also made an offer for Club Services. However, Allied Esports Entertainment decided Bally’s presented a “superior proposal.”

Some earlier plans have also been coming to fruition. Bally’s completed its acquisition of daily fantasy sports gaming site Monkey Knife Fight on Mar. 23.

The week before, on Mar. 18, Bally’s became an authorized gaming operator with Major League Baseball. In doing so, it has completed a sports partnership trifecta, having done the same with the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association previously.

Gamesys may be Bally’s magic bullet for sports betting and iGaming

The announcement reveals that Bally’s sees the Gamesys acquisition as a necessary step towards becoming a force in the US online gambling market. In Bally’s estimation, the addressable market will soon grow to be worth $45 billion.

One part of the joint statement reads:

“Bally’s and Gamesys believe that having a combination of both proven, developed technology and land-based platforms across key US states, with global brands, existing customer bases and complementary product offerings will be key to taking advantage of these growth opportunities.”

Bally’s expects that Gamesys technology will integrate well with Bet.Works. That’s an online sports betting platform Bally’s is acquiring. Another piece of the puzzle is its partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group.

A change in leadership would be part of the deal. Gamesys CEO Lee Fenton is slated to become CEO of the combined group. Its headquarters would remain in Rhode Island, and Bally’s President and CEO George Papanier would stay on the board and lead the retail casino business as a senior executive.

Bally’s stock takes a roller coaster ride

Gamesys stock rose $3.50 on the day of the news, to close at $26.10. Excitement about the possible acquisition continued to excite investors yesterday, and the stock closed at $26.74 – an 18% increase since the close of trading before the news.

Bally’s stock also gained, but in a more volatile manner. At market close on Mar. 23, the price was $66.33. The wave crested on Friday at $75.54, but fell back to $69.85 by the end of trading.

That leaves Bally’s stock with a net gain of 3.2%. However, there’s so much going on with Bally’s these days that it’s hard to attribute stock fluctuations to any particular story. Another factor may have been the simultaneous revelation that Bally’s is on the short list to develop and operate a $650 million retail casino in Richmond, Va. 

WPT’s online poker presence adds to iGaming goal

If Element doesn’t increase its offer to purchase Club Services by close-of-business Monday, Irvine, Calif.-based Allied Esports Entertainment will go ahead with Bally’s offer.

In 2018, WPT partnered with blockchain sportsbook provider FansUnite. The partnership with the sports betting platform appeared to be a straightforward marketing deal that gave FansUnite access to valuable poker player data.

That may be Bally’s angle, too. But WPT does have an online poker presence in addition to its better known international TV and streaming video vertical. So Bally’s might simply be acquiring a known brand with larger iGaming potential.

WPT’s land-based tournaments began in 2002. Allied contended:

“WPT ignited the global poker boom with the creation of a unique television show based on a series of high-stakes poker tournaments.”

Monkey Knife Fight brings Bally’s into the daily fantasy space

Though the other offers have yet to be formally accepted, the Monkey Knife Fight purchase is a done deal. It’s Bally’s third major sports-related purchase since changing its name from Twin River last year.

Adding the third-largest daily fantasy sports operator in North America to its portfolio is part of Bally’s attempt to diversify its offerings.

In February, Bally’s bought SportCaller, a B2B free-to-play game provider. Its clients include sports betting and media companies across North America, the UK, EuropeAsiaAustralia, Latin America and Africa.

In November last year, shortly after the name change, Bally’s acquired Bet.Works. Another B2B company, Bet.Works provides a sports betting platform for operators in Colorado, New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa. At that time, Legal Sports Report noted Bet.Works had an existing contract with TheScore:

“TheScore betting app recently ranked sixth out of 16 in an Eilers & Krejcik review of NJ sportsbook apps.”

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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