After an active 2020, Bally’s is no longer ‘a small regional gaming company’ By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports January 16, 2021 at 5:00 am Since 2019, Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp. has struck deals to acquire or build 11 casino properties in nine states, tripling the regional gaming company’s previous portfolio. Bally’s – formerly known as Twin River Worldwide Holdings – is also creating an omnichannel interactive betting division through its $125 million acquisition of sports betting platform Bet.Works and its partnership with media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group. One gaming analyst, however, said the company’s most recent deal might be its most lucrative. Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim Shortly after New Year’s, Bally’s announced an agreement with a Pennsylvania real estate developer on a $120 million “mini” casino in Centre County near the campus of Penn State University. The facility, expected to include 750 slot machines and 30 table games, would give Bally’s access to the state’s burgeoning interactive gaming business, both sports betting and online casino. “Pennsylvania will be a significant revenue generator for the company, given the size of the market,” Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Jordan Bender told investors in a January 11 research note. He estimated Pennsylvania’s growing online casino market will hit $1.3 billion in revenues by 2025. He also predicted that a 10% online market share for Bally’s could generate up to $115 million in gaming revenue in the state. Bally’s CEO George Papanier told CDC Gaming Report’s Rege Behe that online gambling and sports betting make Pennsylvania an attractive market, “one that Bally’s had been eyeing for some time.” The Pennsylvania casino is expected to open in mid-2022, which, based on the company’s current growth model, would give Bally’s 15 casinos in 11 states. But as active as the company has been on the mergers-and-acquisition front in 2020, Bally’s could bring other locations to its casino portfolio before the first wager is placed in Pennsylvania. Overseeing this growth effort is company Chairman Soo Kim, co-founder of the hedge fund that owns 39% of the company. Last fall, he spent $20 million to acquire the trademark and rights to the Bally’s name from Caesars Entertainment, which has been an active business partner. The Bally’s name will be placed on the company’s recent and pending casino acquisitions in Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, and Nevada. Through the deal with Sinclair, the Bally’s name will replace Fox on 21 regional sports networks. In 2020 alone, Bally’s completed its purchases of three Colorado casinos from Affinity Gaming for $51 million, two casinos in Missouri and Mississippi from the former Eldorado Resorts (now Caesars) for $230 million, Bally’s Atlantic City from Caesars for $25 million, and Eldorado Shreveport in Louisiana from Caesars for $140 million. Deals expected to close this year include purchasing the operations of Montbleu in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, from Caesars for $15 million, Jumer’s Casino & Hotel in Rock Island, Illinois, from a private operator for $120 million, and the operations of Tropicana Evansville in Indiana from Caesars for $140 million. Bender said Bally’s hasn’t let COVID-19, which forced the extended closures of properties around the country and restricted operations, get in the way of its buying spree. “Bally’s entered 2020 as a small regional gaming company with several assets, but remained aggressive in a year when most were playing defense as the pandemic unfolded,” Bender said. He said 2021 will be a transition year for Bally’s, including integrating its new properties into the company and investing roughly $150 million in remodeling and expansion efforts in Rhode Island, Atlantic City, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. At the same time, the Bally’s brand will assimilate with Sinclair, while launching a new sports betting/igaming app as part of the Bet.Works acquisition. Bally’s envisions placing its sports betting content on 190 Sinclair television stations in 88 markets, which cover some 70% of all U.S. households. The only hindrance would be another COVID-19 disruption in the first half of 2021. “Bally’s can conservatively achieve mid-single-digit online market share despite the highly fragmented igaming and sports space,” Bender said. “On the cost side, Bet.Works gives Bally’s a margin advantage over its peers.” Bally’s also announced a deal in November to bring its mobile sports betting app to a casino in Iowa. Kim became Bally’s chairman in December 2019 after joining the company’s board in 2016. “We have evolved in just a few short years from a regional casino operator into the first U.S. gaming company committed to serving our customers with an omnichannel approach,” Kim said in November. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.