PPA Tour and MGM Announce Partnership for Team Event in Las Vegas

It is sometimes hard to differentiate between real pickleball news, fun pickleball news and I don’t care pickleball news. The fun type of pickleball news is Kevin Durant playing pickleball and looking pretty awkward doing it (sorry Kevin, we know you’re trying). When it comes to news or noise, there is a lot of noise these days with the amount of publicity pickleball is getting across various mediums. However, we had some real pickleball news that the Dink reported on Thursday involving the PPA Tour as they announced a partnership with MGM. The press release set out that Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas will host the ‘2022 Bubly Team Championships presented by MGM Rewards’ with live coverage on Tennis Channel and ABC. This comes on the heels of the PPA announcing a partnership with DraftKings last week.

That is real pickleball news.

The format for the event is apparently a unique team event with 24 of the world’s top pros battling it out for $175,000 in prize money. Translation, it sounds like an exhibition format that was about as randomly put together as the Selkirk Labs Showdown, except there is real money on the line and real, non-pickleball entities involved. We have no idea how that $175,000 will be distributed, but that is a lot of money for one event.

We do not have any details as to how the partnerships arose for the PPA, but what is clear is that the PPA appears to be getting in first on the gambling side of pickleball. That matters because of the eyeballs. CBS airing the Skechers Invitational was seen as monumental for the simple fact of pickleball being on network TV. In our view, this is a much more meaningful partnership because, on its face, it’s not just Tom Dundon using his connections to get pickleball on TV by paying CBS a good chunk of dough.

There were over 600,000 viewers for the Skechers Invitational on CBS and, even though people may not be tuning into network TV specifically for pickleball, TV habits die hard, especially for the older generation. Keep in mind that last night’s big Thursday night NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers had signifcantly less than 100,000 viewers at times for the stream on Twitch. Of course, there were far more people watching the broadcast directly through Amazon Prime, but it may be the case for pickleball that people still prefer watching sports on TV. So, when you have an event at a big casino in Las Vegas with very real sponsors like MGM, you are absolutely growing the sport. Again, it would be better if they were simply able to air a tournament event rather than some made up exhibition with the players they want, but beggars can’t be choosers if you want to partner with these entities and get on network TV.

We know the big PPA names will be participating, but one big question we have is whether “24 of the World’s Top Pros” teaming up will include any of the higher end APP/MLP players like JW Johnson and Parris Todd. Is the PPA more concerned with placating its contracted pros who are frustrated at their inability to participate in MLP, or do they want to put on the best possible event? 

The PPA Tour does quite a few things that warrant criticism, but it is commendable they are always trying to think bigger and push the envelope. This event announcement does not have that air of false reality like putting the PPA Tour on ESPN2 at the same time as the Super Bowl. At least from what we can see, this is another step towards something very legitimate as the prospect of gambling’s integration with pickleball becomes more real by the day. 

Gambling obviously offers a great opportunity to bring more eyeballs and money to pro pickleball, but it may be easier said than done to bring gambling on any type of large scale to pickleball. We have touched on this before but, in a sport where most of the pros are not making significant money, it would be hard to allow any type of substantial total to be bet on the outcome of any single game or player prop, without running a significant risk of potential match fixing.

You also have to make sure that most of the matches that are being bet on can be watched somewhere with a high level of professionalism in the sport. If you really want to see people get upset about the current pickleball referees, player line calls, suspect brackets, and paddle controversies, just wait until there are gamblers involved. It seems that the introduction of gambling to the sport could be the thing to propel pro pickleball to take off like a rocket ship, thanks to good timing of the recent wave of states legalizing gambling, bringing with it a substantially higher quality of viewing experience and professionalism to the sport. However, there are still a significant number of hurdles and pitfalls, which must be cleared and avoided to get there.

What is also evident with this announcement is that the competition between PPA, APP and MLP is not going away anytime soon. It will be interesting if the PPA can figure out how to bring actual gambling to pro pickleball, which they announced last year was going to happen with no follow-up. It appears that the PPA is a lot closer to bringing gambling to the sport than either MLP or the APP right now, which puts them in a very good spot as we head into 2022. Although, as we know, things can move very fast in pro pickleball. 

We have to think that MLP and/or the APP has something up their sleeve, whether it is gambling, broadcast partnerships, new events, higher profile investors, bigger prize pools or something even bigger. The arms race was in somewhat of a standstill for a brief period of time, but there is no doubt that everyone is still working towards their pickleball version of a nuclear bomb.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook too!

7 thoughts on “PPA Tour and MGM Announce Partnership for Team Event in Las Vegas

  • September 16, 2022 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you for your time and posting. It will be interesting when gamblers place their bets (not really knowing any players except a few) and then find out that the PPA manipulated the player draw for their own benefit, and now profit.

  • September 16, 2022 at 5:13 pm

    When I saw the announcement, I went to the website set up for this team event. After my visit to the website, it actually did not seem like “real news”. The website heavily promoted all the ways to participate: tickets to watch, amateur matches, etc. So I thought it looked like a money grab. And maybe a carnival atmosphere for the “exhibit put on by the pros” (my words).

    $175,000 might sound like a lot but if it gets divided into 24 teams then it’s not as much as the $100,000 MLP gives for 4 players. A big chunk of PPA money in the past went towards appearance fees. So we’ll see ( or won’t see as PPA has never been transparent with $$ or would change their mind after posting the supposed pay-outs).

    One other thing that interested me was who bought the domain pickleball.com. You see it advertised on the back drop in Atlanta and says it’ll start October 5. I’m thinking Dundon bought that domain. Maybe it’ll be the gateway to his pickleballcentral and pickleballtournaments (and now pbbrackets) companies. Or I’m totally off-base and it’ll be yet another retail site.

  • September 16, 2022 at 7:38 pm

    The website says it will feature 24 pro players broken into “four world class teams”. So my guess is it will be fairly similar to MLP but they switched it up by having 6 players per team rather than 4 so it isn’t so obvious that they are ripping off MLP’s format. I also would be shocked if the payout for the winning team doesn’t match MLP’s 100k.

    This feels like such a miss to me (if my assumptions are correct). Don’t take MLP’s format, tweak it a little, and call it good. Be innovative and do something fresh and different! OR, do something like the triple crown tournament Stone and Nunnery were talking about.

    When it comes to the lineup of players being included my guess is it will be PPA contracted players only. I counted, and I think there are exactly 12 women who are under contract, so that must be how they determined the event would be 24 players. If they want to keep their current players happy and potentially entice unsigned players to sign I think it has to be PPA players only. I’ve been super curious about how they were ever going to get new players to sign contracts, and keep their current players happy when they can’t play in the events with the biggest payout. So maybe this is their solution. But will it be enough? I’m so curious to know how strongly they are pursuing the up and coming players like Bright, Todd, Ignatowich, and Staksrud. And what about JW, Dylan, Dekel, Zane, Vivienne, Koop, etc? Why didn’t they sign previously? Are they glad they didn’t, or do they regret not signing? Who knows if we will ever find these things out, but if the PPA doesn’t want to get too stale and predictable (like it is quickly becoming) they better figure something out soon. How many more tournaments can we watch with the same 6 teams playing over and over? I’m still tuning in for every tournament, but I can’t imagine in a year I’ll still be interested in watching these same matchups.

    • September 16, 2022 at 11:43 pm

      Yeah it’s 24 players so $175,000 should go a decent way with only that many. It is a good point Jan makes about possible appearance fees cutting into that amount. It’ll be interesting if we get transparency

      Definitely agree on the format being a blah format. It means nothing. A Triple Crown situation would be way more fun. Or something else.

      Our guess is they tried hard to get players earlier in the year and have eased up on that. They had that post about Parris after her gold singles win and then took it down. It doesn’t sound like players regret their decision and what happens if they can’t get more players? The next few months could be fascinating

  • September 19, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    Hey, as long as it’s a fun team format, I will watch it. Selkirk Showdown was so boring even with the different pools and way less interesting than even a low tier tourney to me. Seemed pointless. Now hopefully this is different, gets people fired up and is fun to watch, a la MLP 2021

    • September 19, 2022 at 2:15 pm

      It definitely will be interesting to see who they include. There are at least 12 contracted men to play, but does PPA have enough contracted women that will show? My count goes to about 12, so I think so. But if not everybody plays, who do they include? It wouldn’t be nearly as fun with no APP players also, who decides the teams?

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