A few days after Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi became the first WNBA player to 9,000 career points, Arizona’s only WNBA team has made some history in another way. A Phoenix Mercury sportsbook will set a new precedent in the gambling industry when it opens.
On Wednesday, Bally’s announced it has made a deal with the Mercury for market access into Arizona sports betting. The partnership breaks new ground not only for the team but the WNBA and women’s sports.
Plans for a Phoenix Mercury sportsbook
Under AZ law, sports teams like the Mercury can apply for one of 10 earmarked licenses. It wasn’t clear whether the Mercury would take that opportunity until this announcement, though.
Robert Sarver is the principal owner of both the Mercury and Phoenix Suns. The Mercury and the Suns play their home games at the same venue, Suns Arena.
Arizona’s provisional regulations for sportsbooks do allow sports team owners like Sarver to appoint a designee, however. In that event, the designee, not the sports team, actually holds the license.
That’s how both the Mercury and Suns can have separate licenses despite the common ownership. According to a press release, the deal gives Bally’s access for both online and retail operations.
Assuming the AZ Dept. of Gambling gives its consent, Bally’s will offer its mobile sports betting app in AZ under the Mercury’s license. Bally’s also plans to open a brick-and-mortar sportsbook somewhere near Phoenix Suns Arena.
That would put a third retail book within a tight vicinity in that part of Phoenix. Caesars Sportsbook also plans to run a book near Chase Field under the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ license. Chase Field is a mere few minutes’ walk from Phoenix Suns Arena.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this collaboration isn’t about saturating downtown Phoenix with sports betting, though. It’s a big step for the intersection of gambling and women’s sports.
Unprecedented nature of this deal
Prior to this announcement, no women’s sports enterprise has ever gone all-in on sports betting to this extent.
For example, the WNBA has sports betting deals with MGM and PointsBet Sportsbook. Those deals mostly involve giving those books access to official league data and trademarks. BetMGM has a similar deal with the LPGA.
DraftKings and FanDuel have both acted as jersey sponsors for the New York Liberty in the past. The Mohegan Tribe, which runs casinos in multiple jurisdictions, owns the Connecticut Sun. To execute this deal, though, the Mercury will actually have to hold a sports betting license.
To be clear, that will be the extent of their involvement. Bally’s will handle all the day-to-day operations of the sportsbook. In this way, it’s no different than a sports team applying for a license to sell alcohol at its venue then contracting with a third party to handle its concessions.
Still, this is the first time a women’s sports team has provided access to a market for a gambling company. Given the expansion of gambling into new markets, it probably won’t be the last.