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Sinclair RSN naming rights pocketed by Bally’s in ‘US$85m’ deal

Ten-year sports betting partnership will lead to ‘further gamification’ of live sports.

19 November 2020 Sam Carp

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  • Sinclair gets 15% stake in Bally’s with option to buy further 15%
  • Bally’s to receive integration opportunities across 190 TV stations, including 21 RSNs and Tennis Channel
  • Casino operator also ramps up sports betting drive with US$125m Bet.Works acquisition

Casino operator Bally’s Corporation has picked up the naming rights to Sinclair Broadcast Group’s portfolio of regional sports networks (RSNs) as part of a long-term strategic partnership focused on sports betting.

According to the New York Post, Bally’s will pay a total of US$85 million over ten years for the 21 Fox-branded RSNs, which Sinclair acquired from Disney last year in a deal worth US$9.6 billion, to be rebranded as Bally Sports. 

The broader partnership will see Bally’s integrate content across the 190 TV stations owned or operated by Sinclair, which said the collaboration will lead to ‘further gamification of live sports’ and provide viewers with a ‘first-of-its-kind interactive viewing experience’.

Bally’s will gain extensive access to Sinclair’s network of local, live sports content across the 21 RSNs, which collectively air games played by more than half of the US teams competing in Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL).

It will also receive premium integration opportunities across Tennis Channel, which recently acquired exclusive ATP Tour rights in the US; Stadium, Sinclair’s 24/7 sports network; and direct-to-consumer streaming app Stirr. 

Under the deal, Sinclair will receive warrants to buy just under 15 per cent of Bally’s shares, as well as additional warrants that could see it purchase another 15 per cent depending on whether various performance metrics are met. 

“Since acquiring Tennis Channel a few years ago and the RSNs last year, we have been working on developing an innovative experience that changes the way people think about and view live sports across all our platforms,” said Sinclair president and chief executive Chris Ripley.

“Bally's, with its strong brand name, premier sportsbook technology platform and expansive market access, is the perfect partner to help us change the paradigm of sports viewing across all our assets. By integrating gamification elements that allow audiences a more personalised and interactive game experience, consumers of live sports in the future can look forward to a more dynamic and engaging sports viewing experience.”

The deal will go some way towards addressing Sinclair’s financial woes after the company posted a US$3.21 billion loss in its third quarter financial report, which included a US$4.23 billion impairment charge related to its RSNs. 

For Bally’s – until recently known as Twin River – the deal will form a key part of the Rhode Island-headquartered company’s wider push into the US sports betting market, which is predicted to grow to US$12 billion by 2025. 

“This arrangement represents an opportunity to revolutionise the US sports betting, gaming and media industries,” said Soo Kim, chairman of Bally's Corporation's board of directors.

“Sinclair, with its broad holdings of stations, channels and RSNs, provides immediate, national brand recognition that will support the development of Bally's player database for both our traditional casinos as well as our future online offerings, and ultimately deliver significant shareholder value.”

In a separate deal, Bally’s has entered into a definitive agreement to buy Bet.Works, a provider of sports betting platforms to operators in New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana and Colorado, for US$125 million. 

Bally’s, which owns ten casinos across six states, claims the acquisition of Bet.Works’ technology stack and turnkey solutions will make it ‘the premier, full-service, vertically integrated sports betting and iGaming company’ in the US, with physical gambling sites and online gaming solutions united under a single brand.

Following the transaction, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, Bally’s will form two operating divisions. Bally’s Casinos will be comprised of the company’s physical gaming and entertainment properties, while Bally’s Interactive will include new and existing contracts for sports betting and iGaming.

“This is the next step in our company's evolution,” Kim added. “By combining our expanding national footprint of casinos, the recently acquired Bally's brand, and Bet.Works' proprietary technology stack, we have evolved in just a few short years from a regional casino operator into the first US gaming company committed to serving our customers with an omni-channel approach, combining the best of our physical properties with a superior online experience.”

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