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Bally’s Now A Sponsor Of Pro Bass Fishing Circuit

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • Bally Corporation has announced a partnership with pro bass fishing circuit Major League Fishing (MLF).
  • Bally’s is now MLF’s exclusive sports betting, daily fantasy sports (DFS) and free to play partner.
  • Not surprisingly, these are the first sports betting sponsorships ever for professional fishing.

It’s no secret that sportsbooks love ‘exclusive partnerships’ with pro sports teams, organizations, etc. and earlier today Bally’s Corporation announced a completely new one–professional bass fishing. Bally’s is now the exclusive sports betting, daily fantasy sports (DFS) and free to play partner of Major League Fishing (MLF).

In a year that has seen sportsbooks partner with a variety of niche sports ranging from drone racing to cornhole is this really much of a surprise? It’s easy to treat these niche sports as a goof but that’s far from the truth. Fishing, in particular, has a massive user base–a lot of people fish. In 2017, 16.5% of the US population age six and up went fishing at least once. That’s 49.1 million people if you’re scoring at home. In 2019, 54.7 million people went fishing at least once and that is expected to grow going forward. There are 57,000+ businesses in the US fishing sector representing a market of $10.58 billion USD. 64% of recreational fishing participants are male spread across all age groups and income levels. Once fascinating component of fishing’s demographics–one of the fastest growing is Hispanic Americans. 11.7% of all Hispanic Americans went fishing in 2017 representing 4.2 million people. Interestingly, the Hispanic demographic aren’t dilettantes when it comes to fishing–they went on an average of 22.2 fishing outings per year or 4 more than the average fisherman.

Now, I’m not sure how that translates to the popularity of pro bass fishing but you have to think there is some overlap. Bally’s might have just come up with a ‘stealth’ method to reach a huge untapped sports betting audience. Major League Fishing (MLF) is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization. Here’s the blurb about the organization from the press release announcing the partnership:

Major League Fishing (MLF) is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, producing more than 250 events annually at some of the most prestigious fisheries in the world, while broadcasting to America’s living rooms on CBS, the Discovery Channel, the Outdoor Channel, CBS Sports Network, the World Fishing Network, and on-demand on MyOutdoorTV (MOTV). Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with offices in Benton, Kentucky, the MLF roster of bass anglers includes the world’s top pros and more than 30,000 competitors in all 50 states and 13 countries. In 2019, MLF expanded its portfolio of catch, weigh, and immediately release events to include the sport’s strongest five-biggest-fish format tournament circuits. Since its founding in 2011, MLF has advanced the sport of competitive fishing through its premier television broadcasts and livestreams, and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for bass through research, education, fisheries enhancement, and fish care.

Not surprisingly, these are the first sports betting partnerships with the professional fishing industry. This is Bally’s fifth partnership with a pro sports league joining the NHL, NBA, WNBA and MLB. The partnership includes the naming rights for the MLF’s Angler of the Year (AOY) Award for the Bass Pro Tour–essentially the competitive fishing equivalent of NASCAR’s Cup Series. The winner of the Angler of the Year Award takes home $100,000 USD which is a not insignificant amount. The partnership also includes streaming rights for Bass Pro Tour events via the Bally Bet sportsbook platform and other apps.

I have to admit I know zero about competitive bass fishing and particularly how it works as a spectator sport. From the sound of it, it might be more fully developed than I realized. The MLF has plenty of sponsorship including big names like Toyota, Bass Pro Shops and General Tire. Here’s a quote from MLF President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Wilburn about the deal with Bally’s:

“As we ready for the start of our 2022 season, our partnership with Bally’s will offer our loyal fans and anglers another unique avenue to engage with professional fishing and the Bass Pro Tour. This partnership marks an important moment for Major League Fishing in the growing U.S. gaming and sports betting sectors. Integrating Bally’s industry-best online sports betting and unique gaming offerings with MLF’s SCORETRACKER LIVE® and fan-friendly platforms position us to drive viewership, participation, and large-scale adoption among sports fans.”

The ‘Scoretracker Live’ platform not only allows fans to follow the pros competing in tournaments but MLF pushes use for local fishing events. Smart thing to do–it promotes the brand while acclimating fishermen with the MLF format. Here’s a promo spot that should give you a better idea what I’m talking about:

The MLF has successfully leveraged technology to transform fishing into a spectator sport. From the MLF website in an article about rookies adjusting to the Scoretracker format (sorry guys, I’m not going to stylize it SCORETRACKER like you do) check out this quote and consider how easily this could pivot to a betting sport:

“If you’re not catching them – and that happened to me in my Shotgun Round – it’s constantly going through your mind,” Elam said. “I was thinking to myself ‘What do I need to change to catch something?’ as the weights were skyrocketing. I can also see how you can start catching them and gain some momentum. It’s just like a football or basketball game: momentum can work in your favor.”

Knowing who’s catching fish also changes things as some anglers are known for different techniques, or excel on specific bodies of water.

“I noticed some names on the SCORETRACKER that are known for punching,” Elam said. “That’s probably what they were doing, but these guys are all so versatile that it could end up hurting you if they weren’t doing that.”

I’ll post this blurb again as emphasis:

Knowing who’s catching fish also changes things as some anglers are known for different techniques, or excel on specific bodies of water.

Sort of like some football teams play better on turf than on natural grass, right? Combine angles like this, statistical data and plenty of live coverage and you’ve got a perfect betting sport. Bally’s didn’t say anything about putting bass fishing lines on the big board but I sure hope they do. For now, they’ve committed to a couple of free to play fantasy fishing games for the 2022 season:

As part of the agreement, Bally’s technology will power two new free-to-play fantasy fishing games for the 2022 season. The MLF Predictor Game, an engaging game that offers fans the chance to make predictions at Bass Pro Tour events for prizes, will be rolled out for a full season. MLF Fantasy Fishing will also debut in 2022 for both the MLF Bass Pro Tour and the MLF Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. The free-to-play game will allow fans to select their team of anglers for each tournament, create private leagues with their family and friends, and win tens of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. Additional details on the MLF Predictor and Fantasy Fishing games will be announced soon.

Adi Dhandhania, Chief Operating Officer of North America for Bally Interactive, had this to say about the partnership with the MLF:

“We know how passionate the millions of recreational anglers are about the professional ranks of their sport. This integrated partnership is a perfect showcase for Bally’s, allowing us to leverage our sports betting, daily fantasy sports, and free-to-play games to enhance the fishing fan experience across MLF media and live events.”

Bally’s has wasted no time getting their logo up on the ‘Bass Pro Tour Predictor Game’:

So when and where can you watch Major League Fishing? I’m glad you asked:

The 2022 professional bass fishing seasons will launch early next year, with the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Stop 1 at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Jan. 27-30, and the Bass Pro Tour Stage One in Monroe-West Monroe, Louisiana, Feb. 5-10.

For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing, its tournaments, and sponsors, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Personally, I’m going to tune in to see what sort of technology the MLF uses to cover the sport. Like I said before, this is a stealth great move for Bally’s. It’s also part of the ‘mainstreaming’ of sports betting that benefits all of us. I’m interested to check out some of the MLF viewership demographics. It’s important to realize that the world has changed. There are plenty of stupid ‘takes’ and opinions in the mainstream sports media but right at the top of the list has to be radio blowhard Colin Cowherd’s disdain for esports. He even went with the seriously played out ‘geeks in their parents’ basement’ bit–never mind the fact that the Internet is ubiquitous, video games are the most popular form of entertainment in the world and the ‘geeks’ now control the world. Or that triviality about how esports are a billion dollar worldwide business. But I’m sure that ‘geeks’ like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk would give anything to be a ‘cool guy’ like Colin Cowherd.

Translation–it’s the height of ignorance to assume that just because you find something ‘uncool’ or don’t enjoy it that it doesn’t have a fanbase. A few years ago, my younger brother told me he was going to New York City to see a band. He told me the name and it was a band I’d never heard of despite being pretty up to speed on music. I asked him where they were playing–I assumed it had to be a hole in the wall since I’d never heard of them. The ‘hole in the wall’ they were playing was a little place called ‘Madison Square Garden’.

So why not bass fishing as a spectator event and betting sport? If you’re a gambling enthusiast older than 30 you remember when poker completely blew up as a spectator event after the World Poker Tour started putting cameras on the hole cards. There’s a confluence of factors why golf is the fastest growing betting sport and technology is one of them. And everyone remembers the nadir of the COVID-19 pandemic when table tennis became the sport with the biggest betting handle. From a handicapping perspective, this provides a very unique opportunity since linesmakers will be learning as they go about setting numbers on bass fishing. Start doing your research now and you could easily have a nice edge–particularly since the early part of the Bass Pro Tour coincides with the late college hoops season and ‘March Madness’.

I’m going to start learning about professional fishing. Maybe the MLF will have me on a podcast or something talking about betting on niche sports. Seriously–if anyone from the MLF reads this I’d be happy to do some media.

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