Indy Gaming: Where will Oakland A’s play before Las Vegas ballpark is built?
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The Oakland Athletics will still be the Oakland Athletics next season.
Whether the team stays in the Bay Area or tries to make an early leap to Las Vegas starting in 2025 is still to be determined.
The A’s are waiting for Major League Baseball to approve a request by the team to relocate to Las Vegas in 2028 to play in a proposed $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat retractable roof stadium on the Strip.
Sharing the 10,000-seat Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin with the Las Vegas Aviators — the team’s triple-A affiliate — may not be the best interim option.
Las Vegas Ballpark opened in 2019 and is a three-time fan-voted recipient of Ballpark Digest’s Best Triple-A Ballpark. But A’s President Dave Kaval said certain upgrades would be needed for the stadium to host regular season major league games. He didn’t provide any details.
“We don’t have an answer yet. That’s something that Major League Baseball will ultimately decide,” Kaval said.
A decision would have to be made quickly.
Major League Baseball doesn’t waste time planning out upcoming season schedules well in advance of opening day. The 2024 schedules were released in July shortly after the All-Star Game. The A’s have one year left on the team’s lease to use the 57-year-old Oakland Coliseum for its 81 home games.
After the final pitch in 2024, the A’s may need a place to play.
In April, when the A’s announced an initial “binding agreement” to build a new stadium west of Interstate 15 on the site that once housed the Wild Wild West Casino, Aviators president Don Logan said the natural grass field at Las Vegas Ballpark would have to be replaced with artificial turf if the triple-A team was to share the stadium with the A’s. Logan said two teams playing more than 120 games in one summer would quickly wear out the natural grass surface.
The A’s are now locked in on 9 acres of a 35-acre south Strip location that houses the Tropicana Las Vegas. Nevada lawmakers and Gov. Joe Lombardo approved up to $380 million in public financing on June 15 to fund a portion of the stadium construction. The team plans to finish selecting an architect for the ballpark in a couple of months. On Monday, the A’s hired two construction firms to over oversee the ballpark’s building process.
But where will the A’s play in the interim?
Kaval said it’s most likely between another return to the Coliseum, Summerlin or sharing the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park in San Francisco. The 42,000-seat stadium, located along San Francisco Bay, opened in 2000.
“I think those are the three most likely scenarios and how that plays out,” Kaval said. “That's something [Major League Baseball] is running point on.”
One observer with knowledge of the ongoing discussions believes it’s a bad idea for the A’s to play regular season games in Las Vegas before 2028 because it might deflate the opening day bubble.
There is also a precedent set by the Las Vegas Raiders, whose relocation was approved by the NFL in 2017, before construction of the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium began. The Raiders played three more years at the Coliseum as the Oakland Raiders before officially moving to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
Leigh Hanson, chief of staff in the Oakland city administrator’s office, said there have not been any discussions with the A’s about anything beyond this year since the team announced in April it was heading to Las Vegas. The A’s have 18 remaining home games left in 2023.
It’s also unclear when the Major League Baseball owners will vote on the relocation.
MLB has created a three-owner relocation committee — headed by Milwaukee Brewers Chairman Mark Attanasio along with Kansas City Royals CEO John Sherman and Philadelphia Phillies CEO John Middleton — to consider the A’s potential move to Las Vegas.
If the committee moves forward with a positive recommendation, the A’s need 75 percent support from the 30 team owners.
“We are providing all the information that is necessary for them to make an informed decision to understand the market feasibility and our plan with the stadium,” Kaval said last week. “We've been doing everything we can to support that effort.”
Several A’s players who have spent many 100-degree summer evenings at Las Vegas Ballpark heaped praises on the triple-A facility for its spacious clubhouse and training facilities. Batters raved about how far the baseball travels in the dry desert evenings.
But the Summerlin ballpark is not a major league stadium.
“Vegas is a great environment and it’s probably one of the better spots for Triple-A,” said infielder Nick Allen, who has been back and forth between Las Vegas and Oakland three times this season. “But you can’t really beat being in the big leagues.”
MGM taking BetMGM to the UK, but not with UK-based partner Entain
The announcement last week that MGM Resorts International was expanding the BetMGM digital gaming operations to the United Kingdom left one analyst questioning the future of the company’s 50-50 joint venture partnership with Entain Plc.
After all, Entain provides the technology and platform for BetMGM. But in Entain’s home nation, BetMGM will utilize the technology and platform of LeoVegas, a Swedish-based gaming company MGM Resorts acquired last year for $604 million.
“The derivative question we anticipate is whether this development has an impact on the [joint venture] relationship with Entain and whether the prospects of a potential merger among those entities is more or less likely as a result,” Jeffries gaming analyst David Katz wrote in an Aug. 17 research note.
Katz answered his own question by saying there was little change in either direction.
“The growth in profitability for BetMGM in the U.S. brings to bear increasing complexity in the value expansion for the joint venture partners that raises the discussion of a possible merger,” Katz wrote.
BetMGM, which operates online casinos in five states and sports betting in 20 states and the Canadian province of Ontario, told investors last month it expects to turn a profit in the last half of the year.
BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt said the company would “become self-sustaining” in the second half of 2023 and wouldn’t require any investment from MGM or Entain beyond the $150 million the companies previously committed for this year.
BetMGM ranks among the top four online sports betting operators in the U.S., which combine to control roughly 86 percent of all sports wagers and revenue according to the Southern California research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.
MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle said LeoVegas, which isn’t licensed in the U.S., is key to the company’s international strategy for expanding online gaming.
“BetMGM is a proven brand in the sports betting and iGaming space, and we look forward to welcoming international players into our platforms designed specifically for them,” he said.
Gary Fritz, president of MGM Resorts interactive division who led the acquisition of LeoVegas, said the company believes it can grow BetMGM internationally in the same manner the business has expanded in the U.S. and Canada.
“The U.K. is a mature online gaming market, and we believe the BetMGM brand will provide distinct relevance to both sports bettors and iGaming consumers,” Fritz said.
Analyst: Wynn won’t be the last company to depart from sports betting
One analyst said the scaling back of Wynn Resorts’ online gaming and sports betting operations might be just the beginning for a U.S. market that has been feast or famine for many providers.
The Aug. 11 announcement that WynnBET online sports betting and online gaming platforms would be closed in eight of the 12 states where the company operates marked the fourth operator to close this year, along with PlayUp in New Jersey and Colorado, SkyUte Casino in Colorado and Las Vegas-based Maverick Sportsbook, which operated at the company’s Colorado casinos.
Eilers & Krejcik Gaming analyst Chris Krafcik told investors WynnBet had roughly 0.4 percent of the national online sports betting market share in the second quarter.
“The closures could mean a small bump for rival casino brands like BetMGM or Caesars, who might be a natural destination for some of Wynn’s higher staking players,” Krafcik wrote.
Wynn said its online and retail sports betting businesses in Nevada and Massachusetts, where it operates resort casinos, are unaffected by the decision. The company is also keeping its operations alive in Michigan and New York, at least for the time being.
“We understand Michigan is cash-positive thanks to the online casino,” Krafcik wrote.
The timing comes just as the college football and NFL seasons kick off, leaving some of the company’s casino partners — where WynnBet provides sports betting — without an option. However, the emergence of retail giant Fanatics’ sports betting business and a new partnership between Penn Entertainment and ESPN could fill the void.
Wynn executives said the company will focus its financial resources on a $3.9 billion project in the United Arab Emirates and a potential resort development in New York City.
After 6 months, casinos nationwide headed toward another record-setting year
For the first six months of 2023, commercial casino revenue is more than $37.7 billion, a 12 percent increase from a year ago. In 2022, the nationwide gaming revenue topped $60.4 billion, a single-year record.
The American Gaming Association said commercial revenue doesn’t include gaming results from tribal casino markets, which are rarely disclosed publicly.
In a report released last week, commercial gaming revenue nationwide was just under $16.1 billion in the second quarter, the highest figure ever for the three-month period between April and June.
The Washington, D.C., based trade organization estimated 2023’s six-month revenue total provided about $7.28 billion in direct gaming tax revenue for state and local governments.
“While commercial gaming is on track for an unprecedented third consecutive year of record revenue, the lasting impact we’re making on our communities through this record growth is even more impressive,” AGA CEO Bill Miller said in a statement.
The two largest growth areas in 2023’s first six months, based on percentages, are sports betting and online casinos in six states.
Sports betting revenue from 34 states and Washington, D.C., was almost $5.2 billion, up 66.5 percent. Online gaming provided almost $3 billion, up 22.6 percent. Nevada’s poker-only online gaming business was not included in the results.
Slot machine wagering nationwide was $17.7 billion in the year’s first six months, up almost 5 percent, and was the largest subtotal of the overall figure.
Via statement from Gateway Casinos
Longtime gaming executive Tony Santo, 61, died suddenly last week, according to a statement from Toronto-based Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, where he had been CEO since 2013. Santo held numerous executive capacities in Las Vegas for more than 30 years and oversaw several Strip properties. Before joining Gateway, Plaza Las Vegas owner Tamares Group brought in Santo to oversee the downtown hotel and casino.
“Tony was a mentor to me. I valued his expertise as a casino operator and appreciated his leadership style that focused first and foremost on the people of a property — both the guests and employees. He was highly respected in the industry and will be remembered as a man of character and commitment.”
- Jonathan Jossel, CEO, Plaza Las Vegas
Via from Caesars Entertainment
Caesars Entertainment launched its horse racing wagering app, Caesars Racebook, in New York last week. The platform allows New York customers to place pari-mutuel wagers on horse racing content from more than 300 tracks around the world. With the addition of New York, Caesars Racebook is in 16 states, including California and Florida, but not Nevada.
“We are thrilled to launch Caesars Racebook in New York during the heart of the Saratoga race meet. Caesars has a deep-rooted commitment to horse racing, and we couldn't have a better partner to bring a premier horse racing mobile wagering experience to racing fans.”
- Dan Shapiro, senior vice president, Caesars Digital