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A’s Las Vegas ballpark might not top Bally’s to-do list right now

Updated August 13, 2023 - 8:15 am

While many in Las Vegas are thrilled with the prospect of Major League Baseball arriving here by opening day of the 2028 season — even MGM Resorts International is talking about making the MGM Grand more welcoming to baseball fans — it seems one of the key entities in the process is in a holding pattern of its own making.

Bally’s Corp., based in Providence, Rhode Island, operates the Tropicana casino. Bally’s gave an update on the planned new baseball stadium for the Oakland A’s in a second-quarter earnings call with investors last week.

Because Bally’s doesn’t own the Tropicana land — it leases the property from real estate investment trust Gaming & Leisure Properties Inc. — the entire process of getting the A’s to Las Vegas is in multiple hands.

Several players

The key players are the A’s, the club that has fielded the worst baseball team in the majors this year and has played in Oakland since 1968; Major League Baseball, which has 30 teams, 75 percent of which must vote in favor of the team moving to Las Vegas for relocation to occur; Bally’s, which runs the Tropicana and has 15 casinos in 10 states and has a new and relatively inexperienced management team; and Gaming & Leisure Properties, the owner of the real estate beneath the Tropicana, which collects $10.5 million a year from Bally’s as part of a 50-year lease agreement.

The state also has a seat at the table because it is contributing $380 million in public financing for the project.

GLPI had its second-quarter earnings call about a week before Bally’s and gave the impression that the process of designing the $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat stadium was moving along at a rapid pace.

“This design process is on a tear,” GLPI CEO Peter Carlino said in that call. “The A’s and Bally’s have been highly focused on keeping this moving.”

Yet Bally’s, in its call, acknowledged being on hold, awaiting Major League Baseball to approve the relocation of the team in a vote that may not occur until the end of this year.

Two other undertakings

Bally’s doesn’t seem too worried. The company has at least two other major undertakings on its plate ahead of whatever happens with the Tropicana and what kind of replacement resort they plan to build on the site.

Bally’s was selected to build Chicago’s casino resort, and part of that plan is to open a temporary casino facility by September.

And Bally’s was the winning bidder for the only iGaming license awarded by the state of Rhode Island. The company plans to launch iGaming in its home state in March.

Meanwhile, in an earnings call this month, MGM Chairman and CEO Bill Hornbuckle said his company would continue to be one of the beneficiaries of the city’s growing love affair with big-league sports.

The Tropicana is across the street from MGM Grand, and the company is contemplating how it can maximize its proximity to the planned stadium.

Baseball fans would love to see all the parties come up with a cool stadium design, and fans of the game see what San Diego did with Petco Park as a model for a stadium co-existing with a hotel property.

Reaping the benefits

MGM already reaps the benefits of having properties that host or are nearby other sports teams with the Golden Knights playing at T-Mobile Arena sandwiched in with New York-New York and Park MGM. Meanwhile, the WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces play at Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay, another MGM property.

“The biggest beneficiary to date on all of the sports-related events has been MGM,” said Brendan Bussmann, a gaming industry analyst with Las Vegas-based B Global. “They took the initial bet with T-Mobile in serving as an anchor in the heart of their portfolio of properties. Even though the A’s stadium will be located across the street, they will be open with inventory on day one while you likely will be waiting for Bally’s facilities to open as the entire site is redone on the soon-to-be-former Tropicana site.”

Bussmann has advocated bringing Major League Baseball to Southern Nevada for more than 15 years.

“Even with all of the ups and downs that have occurred over sites, design, and everything else over the last few months, I still believe that when that first pitch is thrown, it will be a huge win for the destination at the sports and entertainment capital of the world.”

Bussmann believes Bally’s is at a critical juncture in its history.

“They were the direct beneficiary of the Eldorado-Caesars merger, and now they have to deliver in two major markets, Chicago with both the temporary and permanent facility, and Las Vegas on one of the more premiere corners on the Las Vegas Strip,” he said.

“You have big shoes to fill on how the Golden Knights, the Raiders and the Aces have proven to this community on being a strong partner and delivering the kind of experience both locals and tourists expect from a Las Vegas experience. The A’s and Bally’s do not have a lot of room for error.”

But Bussmann — like many other Las Vegans — is optimistic.

Considering where we are at in this journey and the road that has been covered over this year,” he said, “I’m hoping it’s a home run when they step up to the plate.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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