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Bally’s Registers In Ontario In Advance Of Sports Betting, iGaming Launch

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • Bally’s has received an operators license in Ontario for sports betting and casino gaming indicating that a launch in Canada’s largest province is forthcoming.
  • The ‘BallyBet’ sports betting app is live in five US states with a launch in New York pending.
  • Ontario launched their regulated and competitive iGaming market on April 4.

Another big name from the US sports betting market is preparing for an Ontario launch. Bally’s Corporation’s Canadian subsidiary has filed their registration with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Depending on Bally’s expedience in dealing with the other regulatory requirements–the last of which is registering an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario–the ‘BallyBet’ sports betting and iGaming platform should go live within the next couple of months.

Ontario launched their competitive online sports betting and iGaming market on April 4 and to no surprise that set off a flurry of activity with dozens of gaming companies now at some stage of setting up a presence there. And why wouldn’t they want to head ‘up north’? It’s still not clear if Ontario intentionally set out to create the most intelligent and dynamic sports betting marketplace in North America–if not the entire world–but that’s exactly what they’ve done. As of today, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)–the oversight body for sports betting and iGaming in the province–has registered a total of 45 licensees. 26 of these are sports betting (with most also offering casino games), 17 are iGaming only and a couple are ‘TBA’ as to the extent of their product range. There are now 21 sportsbooks and 4 poker platforms now live in Ontario and listed at iGaming Ontario. There are well over a dozen additional companies that are planning to enter Ontario but have yet to start the process.

Bally’s has been a mixed bag ever since they ‘rebranded’ from Twin River Worldwide Holdings. They’ve made some very interesting moves such as becoming the ‘naming sponsor’ for all of the former Fox Sports regional networks, now owned by Sinclair Broadcasting. Bally Sports hasn’t worked out as well as they anticipated, though most of that is the fault of Sinclair. They picked up several companies–fan engagement platform Telescope, free to play game provider SportCaller, DFS platform Money Knife Fight and UK based gaming technology provider Gamesys–and now have all of the technology they need to operate and market a sportsbook in house. They’ve picked up some nice ‘brick & mortar’ gaming properties in Northern and Southern Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. On balance, their moves have been ‘more good than bad’.

They’ve also made some curious moves, such as buying a pro beach volleyball organization (the Association of Volleyball Professionals) though it is admittedly a ‘low risk’ acquisition with significant potential upside. They were unsuccessful in an attempt to purchase the World Poker Tour brand from Allied Esports, with private equity fund Element Partners coming out on top. They attempted to win a casino bid in Virginia, but that didn’t work out either. At the time, I suggested that they were better off having *not* won the bid.

That didn’t stop them from repeating the process, this time in Chicago. You no doubt recall Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to lure a casino to her city? The first time she requested proposals, she was soundly rebuffed by the entire gaming industry due to her plan for the city to keep *all* the money (wonder why New York didn’t get a similar response?). The plan was revised, allowing the lucky winner of the ‘casino concession’ to keep *some* of the money (the revised tax rate is a mere 40%) and she finally got a few nibbles. Four applicants stepped forward–Bally’s, Hard Rock International, Rivers 78 Gaming and Rush Street Gaming. Bally’s eventually got the nod as ‘preferred bidder’ it piqued the interest of Bally’s and they were eventually selected as ‘preferred bidder’. To say that there’s skepticism about the project is an understatement. The biggest concern is the high tax rate (and no doubt other expenses incurred at the city’s behest) in a market with a significant amount of competition. The Bally’s brand has serious roots in the city dating back to their incarnation as a pinball/slot machine manufacturer. It could become a ‘marquee’ property among their retail holdings.

One thing that I’ve liked about Bally’s approach is that they’re always trying something new. That’s essentially what every company is doing in the North American sports betting/iGaming market but Bally’s has no bones about doing it with complete transparency. Other companies might come off like they have a cohesive strategy toward the market but in one form or another the entire industry is ‘making it up as they go along’. Financial analysts and other observers without a gaming industry background might be put off by what appears to be a chaotic game plan at Bally’s, but historically it’s nothing new.

Bally’s is planning to launch their sportsbook and iGaming platform in Ontario under several permutations of the ‘ballybet.ca’ domain:

For now, the ‘go live date’ for Bally’s in Ontario is ‘TBA’. Generally speaking, it takes companies several weeks or even a month or so to fulfill the steps to launching in Ontario. If made a priority, the process isn’t arduous as demonstrated by DraftKings doing it in a record five days from registration to launch. I’m still thinking it’ll be a month or so before BallyBet launches north of the border.

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