- The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA)–the pro tour for pickleball–has signed a longterm deal with Genius Sports to help promote the sport worldwide.
- The partnership means that some sportsbooks will begin to offer pickleball wagering.
- The fast growing sport of pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.
Pro pickleball is very likely coming to a sportsbook near you and sooner rather than later. That’s the most obvious externality of the just announced partnership beween the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and Genius Sports–one of the major data providers for the sports betting ecosystem. The PPA is the pro tour for the fast growing sport of pickleball.
What, you might ask, is pickleball? Here’s a description from a NBC News story covering the booming popularity of the sport:
For the uninitiated, pickleball is something of a mix between tennis, racquetball and ping pong. Players use special paddles and a wiffle ball, and games take place on tennis courts with specific pickleball lines. Nets and court sizes are smaller than their tennis counterparts, and the most common game is doubles, although singles is also an option. It has its own set of quirky rules — for instance, try to stay out of the “kitchen”— but they’re easy to learn.
You can find more background on pickleball plus an introductory video at the USA Pickleball website:
Harry Cicma, PPA Tour Executive Broadcast Producer and CEO of Harry Cicma Productions, was the catalyst behind the deal and is excited to be working with Genius Sports:
“It is an honor to be partnering with Genius Sports in this historic production for Pickleball. The PPA Tour and Genius Sports are the two leaders in their respective industries, so it is only fitting for the organizations to join forces. The production will be innovative, and it is also exciting for the sports world to have a new professional league in front of an international audience.”
Sean Conroy, Commercial Director of Genius Sports, is equally as thrilled to be getting into the pickleball betting business:
“For more than 20 years, Genius Sports has established an incredible track record of driving the growth of sports at every level, providing data-driven technology that connects them with fans around the world. Our long-term partnership with the PPA will combine our leading capabilities across live streaming, production, and regulated betting to accelerate their growth and expand their global reach.”
PPA Commissioner, Connor Pardoe is looking forward to getting more eyeballs on the booming sport of pickleball hoping to establish it as a spectator–and betting–sport:
“This is a significant development for the global development of pickleball and the PPA Tour. With this agreement with Genius Sports, pickleball and PPA Tour events will be viewed by more people than ever before. This will further fuel the massive global growth of pickleball, not only from a participation standpoint but, more importantly, by establishing pickleball as a bona fide and exciting spectator sport.”
If this all sounds silly I’ll remind you that during the COVID-19 pandemic Eastern European table tennis became a huge betting sport. Even with the return of the major North American spectator sports the betting handle for table tennis has remained remarkably strong. For example–in February 2021, the state of Colorado had nearly $7 million USD in table tennis wagers. That’s more than soccer, golf, MMA and motorsports.
Based on the description of tournament formats in the press release the sport of pickleball is a made to order betting event:
This partnership will set the stage for regulated sports betting on PPA events for the first time. Genius Sports has been granted the exclusive rights to capture and distribute live data and video broadcasts from over 1,200 PPA matches per year with its global network of over 150 sportsbook partners.
Each PPA event will feature eight courts of live streaming action per day, offering unprecedented broadcast coverage of pickleball. GeniusLive, the award-winning live streaming solution from Genius Sports, will be deployed over the course of the partnership to broadcast this rapidly growing sport with new audiences worldwide.
The history of popular participant sports becoming popular betting sports is mixed. Tennis and golf have become extremely popular betting sports but that has more to do with the pro game than any ‘previous experience’ bettors may have playing them. On the other hand, bowling has always been a hugely popular participant sport and until the late 1980’s was also a staple on Saturday afternoon sports television. It has never had much popularity as a betting sport.