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Bally’s Corporation To Acquire DFS Startup Monkey Knife Fight

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • Bally’s Corporation will acquire daily fantasy sports (DFS) provider Monkey Knife Fight.
  • Monkey Knife Fight (MKF) is the fast growing DFS site in North America .
  • In November, Caesars Entertainment sold Bally’s Atlantic City to Twin River Worldwide which rebranded as Bally’s Corporation.

Just another crazy day in the sports betting world. I had a whole list of articles drafted out for the next few days but so much news crossing the transom that I had to put them on the back burner.

On Monday, Bally’s Corporation (NYSE: BALY) announced that they had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire daily fantasy sports (DFS) provider Monkey Knife Fight. The all-stock deal is expected to close in Q1 2021 and will make Bally’s the third sports betting company in the US to have a ‘in house’ fantasy sports segment (presumably FanDuel and DraftKings are the other two).

We last reported on Bally’s Corporation back in late December when they opened the FanDuel branded sportsbook at their eponymous Atlantic City property. Just a couple of months ago, Bally’s Corporation was mild mannered regional gaming provider Twin River Holdings. The former Twin River Worldwide Holdings purchased Bally’s Atlantic City from Caesars Entertainment in a deal that closed in late November. In addition, Twin River purchased the entire Bally’s brand from Caesars and rebranded as Bally’s Corporation. With an open spot in the retail sportsbook a result of the deal Bally’s Corporation has partnered with FanDuel to take over the bookmaking operations at their Atlantic City property.

Over the past month they’ve acquired sports betting technology platform Bet.Works in an all stock deal expected to close in Q1 of 2021. They’ve also entered into a very intriguing partnership with the Sinclair Broadcast Group that among other things will see the 21 regional Fox Sports Channels rebrand using the Bally’s name. Once I can get everything caught up I’ll do a deep dive into the Bally’s/Sinclar deal which definitely deserves more extensive coverage. I’m also going to put together some type of flow chart tracking mergers, sales, rebrandings, etc. in the sports betting ecosystem.


So why does Bally’s want a DFS platform? I’ll let them tell you–here’s the blurb from the press release announcing the deal:

Bally’s Corporation (NYSE: BALY) (the “Company”), a leading U.S. provider of land-based gaming and interactive entertainment, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Monkey Knife Fight (“MKF”), the award-winning, fastest-growing[1] gaming platform and third-largest daily fantasy sports (“DFS”) operator in North America. The all-stock transaction makes Bally’s just the third sports betting company in the U.S. to have a fantasy sports segment. In 2020, MKF, which offers its loyal users a dynamic and creative slate of daily sports and e-sports contests, was ranked by Sponsor United as the sixth most-searched and tenth fastest-growing brand in sports and entertainment.

Bally’s acquisition of MKF is the latest step in the Company’s long-term growth and diversification strategy to become the first truly vertically integrated sports betting and iGaming company in the U.S. with a B2B2C business model. Importantly, it complements Bally’s recent media partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group and its pending acquisition of Bet.Works, including its proprietary technology stack.

Here’s where it gets interesting–DFS is still a very dynamic industry unto itself that pulled in revenues of $2.9 billion in the US during 2019. That’s not a bad revenue stream but it becomes even more valuable for growing a database of potential sports bettors. Think it was an accident that DraftKings and FanDuel have become so dominant in US sports betting right out of the gate? Guess again. DFS currently has much wider ‘reach’ in the US market. The Monkey Knife Fight client base includes 180,000 registered users and 80,000 depositing players across 37 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. Now combine that with the 21 regional sports networks that will be rebranded under the Bally’s name and that’s a huge boost to establishing the brand as being synonymous with sports betting.

George Papanier, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bally’s Corporation, spells out his company’s plans vis a vis MKF and DFS (acronyms for days!):

“With this acquisition, we are pleased to enter into the high-growth DFS market. Monkey Knife Fight is a unique asset that we look forward to incorporating into Bally’s constantly growing omnichannel portfolio of land-based casinos and iGaming platforms. As with all of the properties and services that fall under the iconic Bally’s brand, we are committed to providing a best-in-class DFS platform to sports fans around the country.”

“The MKF acquisition will allow Bally’s to leverage both its current customer database as well as DFS’s collection of depositing players. These assets will also provide Bally’s with a significant advantage in launching its own B2C sports betting operations.”

Bill Asher, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Monkey Knife Fight, is rightfully proud of the brand he’s built in just three years:

“Since our inception, we have distinguished ourselves from competitors by providing the best experiences for our valued players, forming strategic partnerships with teams, ownership groups and players unions, and acquiring strategic assets to bolster our position in the market. I am immensely proud of all we have accomplished over the past three years at MKF and am confident that the talented Bally’s team has what it takes to continue to grow and develop what is already a great business.”

If Asher’s name sounds familiar….well, let’s just say that this ‘isn’t his first rodeo’:

Prior to his move to fantasy sports, Asher gained vast experience in both the restaurant and adult entertainment industries. He was co-chairman/co-owner of the Los Angeles-based Vivid Entertainment, where he was tasked with helping to grow the company into an industry leader at one of the world’s most well-known adult content distributors and producers. He also co-owns Lucid Entertainment, which has many restaurant, bar, and nightclub interests spanning across Arizona and California.

Of course an upstanding citizen such as myself has never seen any of Vivid Entertainment’s productions but here’s a bit about what the company does:

Vivid Entertainment Group, one of the world’s top adult film producers, leaves little to the imagination. Fans of the form know the company best for its Vivid Girls, a gaggle of about a dozen porn starlets who include Jenna Jameson, Briana Banks, and Lanny Barby. Vivid Girls sign exclusive contracts with the company, much like in the bygone days of the Hollywood studio system. Vivid sells its titles to the retail and rental markets and directly to consumers through its online mail-order site. Vivid also distributes films to cable and satellite channels and offers Internet subscribers pay-per-view access. Co-CEOs Steven Hirsch, David James, and Bill Asher own the company that Hirsch and James founded in 1984.

‘Fans of the form’ is a hilarious way to describe porno fans. I’ll definitely be using that in the future. The dynamics of the adult entertainment has been transformed by the Internet and as a privately owned company Vivid can keep much of their financial dealings under their…uh…hat. In 2013, they were widely considered as the #3 adult entertainment company in the world based on revenue behind Larry Flint Publications and a little outfit called Playboy Enterprises:

From the sound of it, Monkey Knife Fight will be rebranded under the Bally’s name at some point. That’s a decision I wouldn’t make lightly–hard to find a more memorable business name and MNF has built amazing brand recognition in just three years in the business.

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