Keeping A’s in California Makes Sense for MLB’s Longterm Sports Betting Profits

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants a realigned 32-team “industry.”

First, he said, at the Sports Business Journal World Congress of Sports, MLB needs to “get Oakland and Tampa resolved.”

There’s plenty to resolve in both the Tampa and East Bays, with sub-standard ballparks and requisite attendance figures central to both unresolved situations. Oakland, which has played in three cities in 121 years of existence, has resided in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (now RingCentral) since 1968, a concrete monstrosity that’s been retrofitted and contorted numerous times — often to suit the now-departed Raiders — and has dugouts that sometimes flow with raw sewage.

Negotiations with the city to build a new ballpark have fluctuated between tepid and slightly-less-than tepid. Recently the sides missed a deadline set by city administrator Ed Reiskin to finalize a development proposal that includes a $1 billion waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal.

Consider: The Athletics have spent more time — 54 years — in Oakland than in Philadelphia (53) with the conclusion of a 60-102 season this summer. But they might be sojourners yet again.

OaklandStadiumWatch, a Twitter account dedicated to exactly what it sounds like, took Manfred’s comments in the best light possible, tweeting:

Would the A’s Leaving California Be Good or Bad for MLB Sports Betting Profits?

Even with five MLB teams in the state, and one across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, a loss of a team in California would hurt MLB. The league figures to take an L in the state in November with polling indicating Prop 27 — an online California sports betting ballot measure that MLB supports — is withering.

The legalized online California sports betting market projects to be huge, which just shy of 40 million residents living in a state that boasts the world’s fifth-largest economy. By leveraging relationships and sponsorship deals, MLB could get a nice payday every year that sports bets can be legally placed in California.

So, from a sports betting angle, MLB wants as many California teams as possible. More California teams means more fans of California teams. More fans of California teams means more bets placed on those favorite California teams.

READ MORE: DraftKings, FanDuel CEOs Doubt Prop 26 or Prop 27 Will Pass in November

MLB is currently comprised of 30 teams in the American and National Leagues. Those leagues are divided into East, Central, and West divisions.

Manfred said adding two more teams would allow the adjustment to four-team divisions and realignment to make scheduling more geographically sensible. That, of course, depends on what becomes of the A’s and Rays.

The NBA nearly pulled off an all-California Pacific Division, with Phoenix joining the Clippers, Lakers, Kings, and Warriors.

With MLB inter-league play introduced in 1997, there’s no need to parcel California teams around both the American and National Leagues. So an Angels, Athletics, Dodgers, Giants, and Padres AL or NL West could greatly interest Californians. Trouble is, Manfred only wants four teams in a division after expansion.

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Are the A’s Going to Eventually Play in Their Fourth Home City?


Maybe, gulp, the A’s getting “resolved” will make an all-California division possible, after all.

The A’s conduct spring training in the Las Vegas area and team president Dave Kaval has given local fans and potential investors hope of adding baseball to a pro sports lineup that includes the Golden Knights (NHL) and Raiders (NHL).

He did so with tacit permission from MLB to scope out options. But Billy Beane, the team’s executive vice president of baseball operations, sounded hopeful of staying in Oakland last week.

After years without its own pro teams, Vegas is suddenly trendy. The Lakers’ LeBron James said last week after playing an exhibition game at T-Mobile Arena that he’d like to own an NBA franchise based there.

Manfred said he didn’t want to speculate on possible new franchise locations, name-dropping Charlotte. Rays ownership had a plan to split seasons between St. Petersburg and Montreal rejected by MLB. But the former home of the Expos is a popular point of speculation to land a new team full-time team. Charlotte is currently a Triple-A affiliate of the White Sox.

Somebody trademark Las Vegas Wranglers. Just to be safe, do Las VegA’s, too.

About the Author

Brant James

Brant James is a Senior Contributor with California Casinos, canvassing events and trends in the gambling industry. He has covered the American sports betting industry in the United States since before professional sports teams even knew what an official gaming partnership entailed. Before focusing on the gambling industry, James was a nationally acclaimed motorsports writer and a long-time member of the National Hockey League media corps, formerly writing for USA Today, ESPN, and the Tampa Bay Times.