Bally’s new merger with Gamesys will impact WPT

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on 03/30/2021

Just a week after it pushed Element Partners Ltd out of the World Poker Tour deal, Bally’s Corporation has made an “announcement of a possible offer” to buy out Gamesys.

The announcement was placed with the London Stock Exchange as part of a regulatory filing. Gamesys Group plc is an iGaming company based in London and floated on the London Stock Exchange, making such announcements necessary.

“The board of Bally’s (the “Bally’s Board”) and the board of Gamesys (the “Gamesys Board”) are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement in principle,” began the announcement. It continued: “On the key terms of a possible combination of Bally’s and Gamesys pursuant to which Bally’s would acquire the entire issued and to be issued ordinary share capital of Gamesys.”

Buying Gamesys will increase the online presence of Bally’s Corp significantly. The Gamesys Group’s major asset is ownership of Virgin Games. Virgin Games runs an online casino, online slot machine bank, and online poker room along with other real money gambling services. It also has a social gaming arm.

Bally’s Corporation already owns a stack of brick-and-mortar assets. The portfolio is currently eleven casinos, a racetrack (horses, not dogs), and thirteen off-track betting offices. It has another four casinos in the process of being built or bought. But until now, its online presence has been limited to a Virginian online sports-book and a mobile betting site in Iowa.

The Gamesys group did £727 million (~$1.0 billion) in revenue during 2020. That represented huge growth from the previous year’s £415 million ($572 million). This makes the group one of Bally’s biggest purchases to date. And Bally’s has not been sparing the cheque book of late.

Who owns what?

The purchase of Gamesys is yet another expansion for Bally’s Corp. Since Sooyoung Kim took over the board in 2019, the company has been on an absolute tear.

In 2004, Bally’s Corp was founded as BLB Investors. Soon after it changed its name to Twin River Worldwide Holdings. In that guise it trundled along as a minor casino operator until it was bought out by Kim’s New York hedge fund, Standard General, in 2016.

Standard General specializes in buying out company’s in “event driven markets.”

With the arrival of COVID, Kim had his event. He started to focus on the fund’s gambling holdings, especially Twin River. After a slow build during 2020, Kim unleashed a series of purchases that started what now feels like an unstoppable rise for Twin River.

One of the key purchases was the Bally’s brand, previously owned by Caesars Entertainment. Twin River was reborn under an old-Vegas name.

Over the course of 2020, Twin River/Bally’s bought out nine casinos across the United States. It even made a deal to rename the Fox Sports Network to Bally’s Sports (FSN is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, which had almost become another Standard General investment vehicle back in 2018).

In 2021, it made a deal to build at least one more casino. It also bought out a free-to-play online gaming site called SportCaller, a daily fantasy sports site called Monkey Knife Fight, and the entire World Poker Tour brand.

Gamesys adds yet another feather to Bally’s already expansive cap. It’s beginning to look like a feather duster.

What this means for your favorite poker shows

The World Poker Tour is in a major state of flux, and this probably won’t serve to stabilize it immediately.

As a brand, the WPT has expanded into new markets this last year. It held a Poker Kings exclusive event and the WPT India, which was played on Natural8. Its other online legs in 2020 further tied the brand to PartyPoker.

Bally’s may be looking to break-off these associations. When it merges with Gamesys, it’ll have its own online poker site.

The WPT’s place as a TV series has also been complicated. PokerGO has streaming rights for old episodes and made a loan of their studio for recent WPT final table shoots. But the live streams still often appear on partypoker LIVE with edited versions airing on various Sinclair channels. So, Bally’s deal with Sinclair should work out quite nicely here.

It seems likely that Bally’s will try to consolidate its assets under one roof. One can see Virgin Poker taking over as an online host and partner, while Bally’s Sport becomes the main broadcaster.

What this would mean for PartyPoker and PokerGO will depend on how sharp their negotiators are.

Either way, it looks like the purchase of Gamesys could have significant add-on effects for the poker ecosystem.

Featured image source: Twitter