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Sports betting is coming to a regional sports network near you

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That includes Marquee Sports Network.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Earlier this month, Sinclair Broadcast Group, which co-owns Marquee Sports Network along with the Cubs, announced a partnership with Bally’s to re-brand the regional sports networks it owns with the Bally’s name. Marquee was specifically excluded from the rebrand, along with the Yankees’ YES Network.

Monday, though, SportsBusiness.com reported that Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, Marquee and the Cubs are creating a new sports partnership:

Tom Ricketts, owner of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, has teamed with global merchant bank The Raine Group and other Cubs executives on a new special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) with aggressive ambitions across the sports industry.

The newly formed Marquee Raine Acquisition Corp., which filed with the United States’ Securities & Exchange Commission on November 27, is seeking $325m for a series of potential acquisition targets in areas such as real-money gaming, interactive and live entertainment, digital media, sports-related assets such as a franchise, the health and fitness market, technology, and audio content and podcasting. Each of these targets are termed as “macro themes” in the company’s prospectus.

You’ll note that the very first thing mentioned is “real-money gaming.” While the Sports Business article doesn’t specifically mention gaming as TV programming on Marquee, this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Derrick Goold notes that the Sinclair/Bally’s partnership does, in fact, include plans for sports betting:

Officials at Sinclair and the gambling operator with which they are partnering, Bally’s Corporation, were not available last week to comment. But a look at what they touched on while discussing the deal in a recent conference call with financial analysts provides some insight. And the bottom line is that they consider time to be of the essence, and already are developing an app to process bets that are made related to the telecasts.

“We’re going to move very quickly,” Bally’s president and CEO George Papanier said.

How quickly?

“We have an aggressive plan,” Sinclair president and CEO Chris Ripley said, adding that the app’s “first iteration (will) launch in the spring.”

Further, Goold reports:

The goal for Sinclair and Bally’s is to move viewers away from cable/satellite and to its own app. To that end, at some point in 2021, Sinclair plans to make its regional sports networks, including FSM, available for viewers to purchase independently. Currently a subscription to a programming provider is required to watch.

Whether this (a Sinclair sports app) would apply to Marquee is unclear at this point.

The Sports Business article notes that Cubs executives will be part of the Marquee Raine Acquisition Corp., including Crane Kenney as co-chief executive and Alex Sugarman (who is Cubs executive vice president of business operations and chief strategy officer) as executive vice president. There is one caveat to the creation of this corporation:

Like other SPACs, Marquee Raine Acquisition Corp. will have 24 months to find an initial business combination. If one is not found, the full proceeds of the stock sale will be returned to investors. The latest filing is just one of dozens of sports-related SPACs that have dominated the finance industry this year.

Sports betting was approved by the state of Illinois earlier this year and this past September the Cubs announced a partnership with DraftKings to open a sports book somewhere near Wrigley Field once all potential regulatory approvals from the city of Chicago are obtained. It would only make sense that the Cubs would also want related programming on their co-owned television channel.

As always, we await developments.