TL;DR. This is about Bally’s AVP Acquisition, for an undisclosed sum in July of 2021. They’ve been putting together a portfolio to help them go after sports gaming for almost a full year. The AVP fits nicely into this plan and will be the first of many properties they acquire in sports. I was more interested with how Bally’s has looked to control every aspect of the sports betting experience. This is good for Volleyball, but will change how things are done.
The world of Volleyball was shocked when Bally’s Casino bought the AVP for an undisclosed sum. It showed a massive cultural divide in the sport; some who were excited to see more money flow in, and others that are concerned for the game’s future.
Why did the AVP sell? I don’t really know their business well enough to do anything more than guess, but from the outside looking it’s easy to assume that their events business is draining their cash. Because of limited licensing and a lack of opportunities for fans to give money directly to the AVP, their amazing events don’t end up being profitable. And based on my understanding the AVP’s sponsorship and media infrastructure weren’t strong enough to completely support the league.
Once you read a bit about Bally’s, it quickly becomes obvious why Bally’s bought the league; gambling rights. That being said, I don’t think a lot of people have thought of second order consequences and how this could change the sport. Since I’m under qualified and overconfident to give an answer, here enough is my perspective.
Bally’s Acquires Businesses
Bally’s has been on a buying spree since 2020, beginning with Bet.works in November. Bet.works is a US based sports gaming platform, which is an infrastructure service for a sports gaming platforms. It offers the software and services to run an online betting platform. This means that they can process data and set lines efficiently and manage all the other elements that are a part of the gaming process. Bally’s saw that they could do this so well that the casino paid a reported $125 million.
Bet.works is important because Bet.works leadership is now the leadership of Bally’s Interactive. Bally’s Interactive is the sportsbook (betting service) that Bally’s recently spun out. Once you have your book all you need is content and distribution and you can control the entire sports betting experience. It was the first purchase of a push towards gaming and creating a vertically integrated betting platform.
Next, Bally’s spent $50 million on Monkey Knife Fight. Monkey Knife Fight, beyond having a cool name, is the third largest daily fantasy sports company in the world behind DraftKings and Fanduel. This gives Bally’s a presence in another part of the betting ecosystem. It also gives them multiple points of interaction with betting customers.
Now Bally’s partnered with Sinclair Networks. The partnership gives Bally’s access to 19 of Sinclair’s regional sports networks. This creates a distribution mechanism for content that Bally’s can generate. Part of this agreement was to generate content for the regional networks to play. Because Bally’s must provide content, the AVP becomes a more compelling acquisition.
These Acquisitions show that Bally’s is diving into sports gaming and sees itself as the future of gaming. They will also have the toolkit to revolutionize betting.
Why Choose the AVP?
Since we know that Bally’s is incredibly interested in sports gaming, why did they choose the AVP?
Sports betting requires a a certain number of matches throughout a season to become profitable, for reference think over 100 games per season. Without that number of competitions, betting isn’t worth the investment for the sports book. The AVPs tournament format is perfect to fill this requirement. In a normal year an AVP tournament had 16 teams qualify for the main draw. Between Friday and Sunday are anywhere between 29 and 61 matches played, which doesn’t even include the qualifying tournament (would double that number). More matches means more bets and more content. More bets are better, because sportsbooks make money on the vig, or fee the gambler takes from bettors.
For all its historical struggles as a business the AVP is one of the most well known brands in the Volleyball world. Along with the betting infrastructure the tour format creates, Bally’s is buying a great brand. Everyone has seen the logo, and almost every (good) beach volleyball has it embossed it. Although the brand isn’t crucial to Bally’s business, it does offer a familiar brand to non-Volleyball spectators. As on-screen betting becomes more common, that familiarity and brand value could hook more spectators.
Linear broadcasts (regular TV) has struggled to find enough content to compete with OTT (Over the Top or streaming) platforms. OTT is advantaged by User Generated Content, which creates a virtually infinite amount of content. This means that Linear broadcast companies need a new source of content. As previously mentioned, the Sinclair deal requires Bally’s to develop content and the AVP gives them a product to distribute.
Bally’s main challenge is going to be getting people to actually get out and bet on the games that they’ll be showing so they can reach the minimum number of bets for profitability. They will also be challenged with viewership on weekends.
Predictions for Bally’s AVP Acquisition
On screen betting for AVP events. You’ll turn on a Bally’s network and see real time lines, and bet from your phone. It will begin with traditional win/loss betting, and eventually become real time prop betting. This might not mean anything to people who aren’t fascinated with throwing their money away on grown men playing games. Prop betting is betting on an something happening which is independent of the final outcome of a match. For example; who will win this point, who will get served or what team will get seven kills first. A lot of these don’t exist yet, but I do see a world where the AVP pilots these.
Once AVP proves itself to be successful, I think they will bring another format like grass 3s or a more entertaining format (too much first ball side out) to the betting world. Another format will add more matches, and create another series that fans can bet on. There is momentum building in the grass triples environment, which could be a great format to add. This prediction will take several years to come to fruition, because the sand must prove itself first.
Bally’s will give players from different countries the opportunity to compete in the US, together. FIVB beach Volleyball has a problem and that is the country system. The best beach volleyball never gets played, because the highest level tournaments require players from the same country to compete together. AVP does not have this requirement and could bring in some really high level international players to elevate the level of the league. Currently, the FIVB doesn’t allow for this type of action, but a large gaming partner could be the push to get them to create exceptions in an effort to grow the sport. Beach Volleyball’s structure of doing tournament payouts vs. salary would facilitate this incredibly well. Right now the AVP is pretty tough for international players to join, but a change of rules could make it an incredibly interesting league to pay attention to.
Is this good or bad for volleyball?
Good. Any money and attention is good for the game. Most importantly I think Bally’s offers innovation and a new mindset to the game. Will they change rules or format to make the game more appealing to fans watching on regional sports networks? Or will they be the first to offer live onscreen betting in the United States?
Bally’s Acquisition of the AVP will be a catalyst for the growth of the league and sports gaming in general. The AVP allows them to capture attention and monetize it using sports betting. Even if the capital investment from Bally’s was small, their investment in sports gaming will drive growth for the league and the company.
This Acquisition might also give the sport some of what it needs to grow; ownership that bought it because it works on an Excel sheet rather than because they love the game. This could result in more equipment licensing deals, and better sponsorships. As soon as Volleyball products exist and players begin to consume, money will flow into the game. Players haven’t traditionally bought anything specifically for Volleyball players. That’s beginning to change with more products, like Slunks, becoming more prevalent.
The AVP needed a shakeup. Volleyball fans LOVE it, but it’s not accessible for new fans. AVP Atlanta is happening next week, and none of my non-volleyball friends have heard about it. That being said, I think it’s an incredible brand and will become a great business.
This is my opinion. I wrote this with information that can all be found from public sources.