Wynn Resorts loses bid to partner with Sinclair’s sports TV networks: sources

November 20, 2020 

Wynn Resorts just lost a bid to secure a toehold in the burgeoning TV sports gambling sector — and some insiders fear it may have been the casino empire’s biggest and last chance.

Las Vegas-based Wynn — which has struggled since its billionaire founder Steve Wynn left the company in 2018 amid a slew of sexual-misconduct allegations — was among the losing bidders this week as the Bally’s casino chain won a media partnership deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group, The Post has learned.

As first reported by The Post, Bally’s and Sinclair on Wednesday reached a deal to rename the 21 regional sports TV networks that Sinclair acquired from Fox last year — currently branded Fox Sports — as Bally Sports.

Bally’s, which owns Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino, will pay Sinclair $85 million over a 10-year period for the naming rights, giving it exclusive access to fans of 42 major teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Kansas City Royals. The goal is to eventually enable viewers to bet on games using a Bally’s online gaming tool directly from their TVs.

According to sources close to the deal, Bally’s only won the partnership after recently raising its bid to top a rival proposal from Wynn, which had pushed hard for the Sinclair tie-up. At least one other unsuccessful bidder also lost out in the deal, the sources said.

Some insiders speculated that Wynn might have lost out partly because the storm of allegations against its 78-year-old founder have tarnished the Wynn brand, dimming the prospects for a successful marketing partnership. A source close to the talks, however, denied that was a factor in the process.

Sinclair declined to comment. Wynn did not return calls.

After the deal was disclosed, Bally shares on Thursday surged 21 percent and rose another 31 percent on Friday, closing at $48.40. Wynn’s stock, meanwhile, fell nearly 3 percent over Thursday and Friday. It has been the casino sector’s worst performer year to date, off 34 percent as the pandemic has devastated tourism. By comparison, shares of billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands are off 19 percent, while MGM Resorts is off 21 percent.

The loss to Bally’s hurts for Wynn as its rivals over the past year have been busy inking a slew of TV broadcast partnerships.

Last month Caesars Entertainment, after becoming the NFL’s official casino sponsor last year, revealed its first NFL team sponsorship in a deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Caesars will offer chances to bet through the Indianapolis Colts app and its own betting app will be integrated with Colts marketing. Caesars also has a deal to link ESPN’s digital platforms to its sports betting sites. Caesars shares are up 10 percent this year.

MGM, meanwhile, has reached partnerships with MLB the NBA and the NHL in which it is a gaming partner. Now MGM can use official data and branding from the leagues to improve its online betting platform, and the leagues will advertise MGM across their sites. In January, Penn National Gaming bought a 36-percent stake in Barstool Sports and the two promote each other.

“I think Sinclair was the last big trophy media prize out there,” a gaming analyst requesting anonymity told The Post.

In an earnings call this month, Wynn executives said the company’s online gambling unit Wynn Interactive has made substantial progress. The subsidiary just launched online sports and gaming in New Jersey, and is in the process of applying for licenses in Tennessee and Virginia. It also bought an equity stake last year in European digital sports betting operation BetBull.

“I think it’s early days for Wynn,” said Jefferies managing director David Katz. “They are trying to carve an industry for themselves in digital gaming. It is true that almost every operator wants to be there. The degree to which it will be an earnings driver for Wynn is still an open question.”

Still, when it comes to digital gaming, Katz adds that “you have to be ‘go big or go home’.”

In its presentation to its investors Thursday, Bally’s said the US online sports betting market overall this year is expected to be $2.6 billion, and predicted that it will grow to $12 billion in 2025 and $50 billion at maturity.

Interest in sports betting, Bally’s said, is highest in the youngest demographics. Bally’s said 63 percent of sports fans between 25 and 34 years old were interested in betting, compared to 35 percent of sports fans over 65.

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