When the Professional Bowling Association returns to the lanes on June 6 for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to live events, it will come with a new twist – sports betting.
The PBA has signed a new deal with FOX Bet Sportsbook ahead of its PBA Strike Derby tournament at Bowlero Jupiter in Jupiter, Fl., which will be its first since March 15.
Subsequent events – the PBA Summer Clash on June 13 and a four-day “PBA King of the Lanes” series in July – will all take place at Bowlero Jupiter without fans in attendance and no more than 50 people on site. But the new addition of online betting will make those at home feel involved with the events.
“That is a new, dynamic form of deep engagement for audiences,” PBA CEO Colie Edison said.
It will occur where FOX Bet is operating legally, which includes Colorado, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The sportsbook launched in New Jersey last August and marked the first time that an American sports media company has extended its brand into gambling.
With a lack of other live sports for sports bettors, Edison said the PBA saw this as an opportune time for it to step into the space. The format of the Strike Derby, a new event that will see eight bowlers competing against one another, also lends itself well to betting.
“This has been a goal for us since our acquisition of the PBA,” Edison said. “The sport is well-positioned for wagering, and there is an appetite from our fan base and the wider sports betting community to feature bowling in online gaming.” Bowlero Corp, which is the world’s largest owner and operator of bowling centers, acquired the PBA in September 2019. Edison, who is Bowlero’s chief customer officer, was also appointed CEO during the acquisition.
Knowing that bowling fans needed excitement in the sport during this time, Edison viewed the FOX Bet partnership as a great chance to bring out PBA events.
During the Strike Derby, the PBA and FOX Bet will have three markets for actual bets: the Strike Derby winner, to reach the final, and total strikes. The league will also be offering markets for entertainment purposes only throughout its broadcast, such as “to get to number-one seed,” “total strikes in qualifying rounds,” and “total strikes during bracket stage.” On-air talent will be discussing these results live with in-game graphics displaying those odds.
FOX Bet has already posted initial odds on its Pennsylvania app that set the over/under for the number of strikes thrown during the first-ever tournament at 196.5.
Following the Strike Derby, Edison and the PBA plan to increase its gambling investments. While she does acknowledge the limitations around the Strike Derby’s odds, she views it as a game-changing initiative for bowling and can provide a proof of concept as the PBA continues to enhance its in-game offerings.
“We will be utilizing online gaming as a way to draw audiences into our linear broadcast and provide deep engagement with a wide consumer base,” she said.
Although Edison could not have predicted how the PBA season would turn out, she is optimistic about the league’s content offerings during this challenging period.
“It’s about being creative and flexible,” she said. “The format that we’re bringing on air in June I did not have planned in January, but we saw the opportunity, and we were able to act quickly and creatively to get this content out there.”