In the sports entertainment industry, the most lucrative enterprises leverage their brands to develop revenue streams that have little if anything to do with the actual sport. The announcement of a planned Phoenix Mercury sportsbook gives the WNBA franchise a necessary avenue to such diversification. Get ready for Bally Bet Arizona.
As far as the local impact on Arizona sports betting, the plans also mean another operator in the market. The more important connotation here though is the continued ascension of the commercial value of women’s sports.
Details on the Phoenix Mercury sportsbook plans
According to a press release out Wednesday morning, Bally’s has brokered a deal with the Mercury for both retail and online sports betting in Arizona. Pending regulatory approval, Bally Bet Arizona is coming.
If you’re saying hold up, don’t the Mercury play their home games at Phoenix Suns Arena? I thought FanDuel Sportsbook already has dibs on the arena for sports betting? You aren’t wrong. The retail book at the arena will indeed be a FanDuel joint.
Neither AZ law nor provisional regulations include clauses that allow online sports betting apps to geofence areas, though. Visitors to the arena will be free to bet online with any licensed AZ operator they choose.
Bally’s does plan to open a brick-and-mortar book near the arena under the Mercury’s license. The Mercury can apply for a license separate from the Suns’ license despite their common ownership because of one item in the provisional rules.
That section states that the owner of a sports team, in this case, Robert Sarver, can appoint a designee for sports betting purposes. That designee, not the owner, will hold the license in that scenario.
Fans will see signage and other activations for Bally Bet Arizona during Mercury games. For the Mercury, the WNBA, and women’s sports, this is a huge activation.
Bally Bet Arizona deal marks new day for women’s sports and betting
This deal between Bally’s and the Mercury does mark the first such collaboration. It’s the first time a women’s sports team will give a gambling company market access into a jurisdiction for sports betting.
Momentum has been building to this point. DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel have sponsored the New York Liberty’s jerseys. BetMGM Sportsbook and PointsBet Sportsbook have official data/trademark deals with the WNBA. BetMGM has a similar deal with the LPGA.
As notable as the market access deal is in and of itself, this will also be the first time a women’s sports enterprise will also hold a gaming license as well. To be clear, Bally Bet will handle the actual operation of the book. The Mercury will simply collect a share of the profits.
That kind of non-sport, passive income has been what has set the “haves” from the “have nots” in the world of professional men’s sports for decades already. For example, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees have a joint venture, Legends Hospitality, that was valued at $1 billion on its own last year.
Comparatively, women’s sports enterprises have only begun to scratch the surface of their potential to diversify their revenue streams. That especially applies to streams that aren’t dependent on the sport product.
Perhaps gambling will be the first avenue for change there. If that indeed proves the case, the Mercury are the standard-bearers.