Hoping to piggyback on the rising popularity of cricket in the United States, Pro League Network has launched the Pro Carrom Tour with an eye toward getting it approved for sports betting by select state regulators in early 2024.
Frequently described as “finger billiards,” carrom is a tabletop game that, like cricket, is wildly popular in South Asia. Instead of cue sticks and balls, competitors flick checker-like discs into corner pockets with their fingers. The wooden boards are sprinkled with powder before matches to enhance the discs’ smoothness and speed, similar to salting a shuffleboard.
On Nov. 2, Pro League Network began airing the first Pro Carrom Tour matches on its YouTube channel, with plans for a weekly competition series to be broadcast live from PLN studios in Queens, New York, starting on Dec. 8. Among the pros participating in these early matches are three-time Carrom World Championship winner Yogesh Pardeshi, 14-time Sri Lankan champion Chamil Cooray, and Ajay Arora, the top-ranked player in the U.S.
“It’s pretty cost-efficient to produce,” PLN co-founder Mike Salvaris told Sports Handle last month. “You need a room and you need the board and a couple players.”
Of PLN’s decision to launch the league, he added, “It’s a very demographic-specific play. Who is speaking to the Indian market in the U.S.? It’s not a lot of people.”
Given the multitude of South Asian immigrants residing in the United States, carrom has a solid domestic fan base, and PLN has partnered with the U.S. Carrom Association to develop the Pro Carrom Tour.
“Carrom is a pastime for millions of people across the world,” U.S. Carrom Association President Bala Parthasarathy said in a press release obtained in advance by Sports Handle. “At USCA, our mission is to promote the game in the U.S., as well as professionalize it as a competitive sport. Pro Carrom Tour helps us achieve this goal by elevating the game in a way that’s thrilling for players as well as fun to watch and learn for fans.”
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“The Pro Carrom Tour is a great example of our focus on bringing a sport that has a dedicated, communal following and creating an entertaining style and format that makes the sport fun to watch and wager on,” added Salvaris and fellow PLN co-founder Bill Yucatonis in a statement. “For the carrom fans, the Pro Carrom Tour pits the best of the best against each other in a made-for-viewing format, while also being easy to understand if you’ve never pocketed a queen.”
Putting, slapping, betting
Launched in December 2022, Pro League Network has focused its efforts on purchasing or starting alternative sports leagues that it thinks will translate well to the world of sports wagering. On this front, it has gained regulatory approval for either its World Putting League or SlapFIGHT Championship in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Tennessee, Kansas, Louisiana, Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, Iowa, and Illinois.
Central to PLN’s business model is total control over its properties’ content and how it’s distributed, and it recently announced the debut of PLN Studios in Branson, Missouri. Other left-of-center leagues included in PLN’s portfolio are Xtreme Long Drive, Pro Footgolf, Strongman, T3 TouchTennis, and Beastball.
The Action Network (a sister site of Sports Handle’s) and Betr Media are just two of the sites that have live-streamed PLN content, while bet365, Betfred, and DraftKings are among PLN’s sportsbook partners.
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