It’s been nearly two years since the Phoenix Mercury made Arizona sports betting history by being the first women’s professional sports team with a wagering partnership.
The three-time WNBA champions made waves in 2021 by inking a deal with Bally Bet, which is one of 17 licensed mobile sportsbooks in the Grand Canyon State (after Fubo Sportsbook ceased operations last year).
Fast-forward roughly 21 months, and the Mercury-Bally Bet partnership is as strong as ever, according to Dan Costello, who serves as the executive vice president of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury.
“The [Bally Bet] relationship for us has been really exciting because it's all about telling stories. It's all about alignment with women's basketball. It's all about creating more opportunity and women's sports,” Costello told BetArizona.com. “The Bally Bet partnership is all about finding unique ways to tell stories and get behind the scenes content and character discussions that are happening in the sport. And for us, that leads to engagement and leads to more interest and creates a really positive brand for Bally's, which is exciting for us.”
Proof of that engagement wasn’t hard to find on Tuesday night, when the Mercury hosted the Seattle Storm in the team’s second home game of the WNBA season.
Take, for instance the Bally Bet logo that adorns the courtyard that’s a few steps from one of the Footprint Center baskets, which was packed with Mercury fans of all ages chucking up shots at the oversized “Pop-A-Shot,” as well as others sifting through the small team shop in the corner of the space that formerly held high-priced seats.
The courtyard, which made its debut at Footprint Center just after the Mercury inked a multi-year partnership with Bally Bet, is an example of the influence that Arizona betting apps have made on the franchise, Costello said.
“I mean, for Bally Bet, they’re all about experience, right? They're about experience and content and really talking about the power of the sport,” Costello said. “So to be able to be the presenting sponsor of our courtyard setup down there. It isn’t just an engagement area, it's an area where you can walk around and be involved. It's got high impact, it’s TV visible. So it's everything that Bally Bet stands for, and it’s everything the Mercury stands for.”
What Mercury Basketball Adds to Sports Betting Scene
For Costello and Jeffrey Brogan, who serves as the general manager of the FanDuel Sportsbook Arizona retail facility at Footprint Center, there’s no doubt the Mercury and WNBA have sports betting potential.
He even has the stats to back that claim up, with Brogan telling BetArizona.com that FanDuel Sportsbook has seen a monumental increase in WNBA betting traffic over the last calendar year, coinciding with the brand’s continued investment in wagering options.
“We’ve seen a significant amount of interest in the WNBA product overall,” Brogan said. “Last year, we saw a 270% increase in bet count and a 100% increase in overall handle (year-over-year). It takes time, but we are seeing that increased interest. And I think, just season after season, [WNBA betting] will become more and more interesting to your average sports bettor.”
Where WNBA Betting Goes From Here
While representatives from Bally Bet did not return requests for comment on the team’s partnership with the Mercury, Brogan said FanDuel Sportsbook is ecstatic with the growth in betting interest surrounding the league over the last few years.
In response, FanDuel Sportsbook Arizona has increased their selection of betting options and Arizona sportsbook promos with player props and single-game parlays on WNBA contests all season.
“We've learned in the past from any sport or any league, that the larger the variety of offerings that we have, the more interest that we're going to see from fans,” Brogan said. “We even have live season win totals for all 12 teams in the WNBA right now. You could bet on any of them right now, even though we’re nine or 10 games into the season.
“So, our strategy really is just to treat [the WNBA] like any men’s professional sports league.”
For Costello and members of the Mercury’s front office, the desire to grow the team’s brand in the state and across the region is omnipresent, from the team’s new over-the-air TV deal to their sports betting partnership with Bally Bet.
The recent TV deal has already paid major dividends for the club, Costello said, with viewership numbers that dwarf what the team saw over the last few years while the team aired its games on Bally Sports Arizona.
As for sports betting, Costello sees it as another avenue for the team to enhance fan engagement, allowing the Mercury and WNBA to carry the torch through the summer months as the club looks to contend for another league title in 2023.
“We think that pie grows much quicker when you can grow as fast as the WNBA is growing and the Mercury is growing,” Costello said. “So we think we can be that standard bearer, aspiration-wise. We want it to be an elite franchise. We want the community to really engage with it and know it, and sports betting and TV viewership is a big piece of that.”