AP Photo/Wayne Parry, File
Twin River Worldwide Holdings announced today that it has struck a deal with Caesars Entertainment to acquire the iconic Bally’s brand.
Back in April, Twin River revealed that it would be acquiring the Bally’s Atlantic City property from Caesars for $25 million. That deal included the casino’s various licenses, including those for online gaming, but not its name.
Today’s announcement means that the property won’t need to be renamed as it changes hands. Its implications reach much further than just that, however.
A fresh start for an old brand
At the moment, there are only two casinos using the name. The other, also owned and operated by Caesars, is in Las Vegas. As part of the deal, Twin River will allow Caesars to continue using the name for that property only, in perpetuity.
For its part, Twin River plans to rebrand “virtually all” of its existing properties using the Bally’s name. This includes eleven casinos, a racetrack, and multiple off-track betting parlors. The company will also change its own name and ticker symbol.
There was no price tag mentioned in the press release. However, Soo Kim, the owner of a hedge fund which holds a 38% stake in Twin River, tipped his hand in an interview with the New York Post. He told the newspaper that the name would cost $20 million, almost as much as the property itself.
Three new online casinos likely to appear
Bally’s currently holds a weird position in the New Jersey online casino space. It’s an old and well-known entertainment brand, associated with pinball and arcade machines as much as with casinos. The legality of NJ online casinos presents an opportunity to bring the brand into the 21st century. Golden Nugget, a similarly historic brand, has demonstrated that convincingly, having become the top licensee in the state.
However, despite holding a license to do so, Bally’s hasn’t yet launched an online product. The main reason for that is that Caesars already has two NJ online casino brands – its own and Harrah’s – and a close partnership with 888. The value of the Bally’s brand, though great, isn’t enough to be worth adding yet another layer of self-competition in a saturated market.
Twin River has confirmed that it has plans to launch a Bally’s-branded mobile sportsbook as soon as possible. It seems very likely that an online casino will accompany it either simultaneously or shortly afterwards. An online poker room is a far more remote possibility. The New Jersey poker market is overcrowded as it is with the three existing networks.
What’s more, since making the deal to acquire the Bally’s property, Twin River has announced market access deals with the Australian bookmaker PointsBet and Canadian sports media company TheScore. Both companies already have sportsbooks in the state in partnership with Monmouth Park Racetrack. These deals are therefore for the online casino vertical, which only Atlantic City casinos are allowed to offer.
Transfer of ownership to complete early 2021
These states don’t have online casino gaming, however, so that aspect of the deal affects retail operations only, for the most part. It’s possible that Twin River will launch a Nevada mobile sportsbook as well. However, that’s an even more competitive market and requires in-person registration, so may not be as appealing as New Jersey.
The transfer of ownership of the properties is expected to take place in the first half of 2021. The various New Jersey mobile launches should happen in rapid succession shortly thereafter.
Thinking outside the Garden State
Given Twin River’s big plans for the brand, it’s also more or less a given that we’ll see Bally’s online products appear in other states. Its only existing online product is through Dover Downs, in Delaware, which could get a rebranding. Online casinos in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan are also entirely possible. Without a land-based location in those states, though, it will need to find a partner.
The possibilities for additional sportsbooks are even greater. Twin River owns the only two casinos in Rhode Island, and offers sports betting there in partnership with the state lottery. As with Delaware, then, bringing Bally’s to that state necessitates only a name change.
Launching in Colorado will be easy too. It has three casinos there and already acts as land-based partner for DraftKings and FanDuel. For other states with legal online sports betting, it will need to find partners. One way or another, though, it looks as if Bally’s is poised to become a common name in the online space starting next year.