North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, has recently emerged as one of the top candidates for a new Major League Baseball expansion team and could jump rival Charlotte, boasts Raleigh Magazine’s Office Talk podcast.
An MLB expansion team in North Carolina would pay off immediately for NC baseball fans and NC sports bettors.
Establishing an MLB baseball team would directly increase the number of sports betting licenses in the newly legalized North Carolina online sports betting market.
As per the gambling regulations, any sportsbook operator must already have or establish a new partnership with a professional sports team or venue to obtain a betting license in North Carolina. The first set of operators, including BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel, already have such partnerships.
Establishing an MLB Raleigh team would allow other sportsbook operators to tie up with the team and apply for a betting license in North Carolina.
Raleigh’s bid for MLB expansion may rely on strength of TV market
Raleigh could get its own MLB team, but this would not come until after the A’s have completed their relocation. This would be the first MLB expansion in over 25 years and only the seventh overall expansion in the league’s history.
As Office Talk host Gina Stephens explains, “it’s just a matter of when” for Raleigh to jump Charlotte as the top TV market in the state. If (and when) that happens, MLB Raleigh proponents think Raleigh will boost its odds of landing MLB’s newest team.
Stephens shared that the execs at CBS-17 believe that could happen in the next one to two years.
The Athletic, which conducted a fan survey last June, identified Nashville as the top choice–and by a wide margin–to land the next MLB team. While Raleigh wasn’t listed in the top five choices while Charlotte was, TV market size represented a core criterion in selecting the next MLB market.
If Raleigh does jump Charlotte, its position outside of the broad Braves and Cardinals markets makes it a solid choice.
Raleigh’s Major League Baseball push started five years ago
In 2019, a group of three individuals—Lou Pascucci, Ryan Foose, and Will Gadd—kickstarted MLB Raleigh, a grassroots movement started to bring MLB to the City of Oaks. After expansions in 1961, 1962, 1969, 1977, 1993, and 1998, the MLB allegedly aims for another expansion that could increase the number of teams from 30 to 32.
In a fan survey over two months ago, participants voted for the city or state they wanted to see in MLB. Raleigh received the third-highest votes in the survey, confirming its large and passionate sports-centric crowd. Comprising Durham and Chapel Hill, the Triangle area is already home to a National Hockey League (NHL) team, the Carolina Hurricanes.
The plan to launch an MLB side has also received backing from the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, Tom Dundon. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, who signed the online sports betting bill into law last June, is also supportive. Cooper stated that North Carolina was a prime location for an MLB team.
Fitting MLB Raleigh into existing infrastructure
The residents of Raleigh would be thrilled to have their own MLB team. However, the most important question will revolve around the city infrastructure’s ability to handle it. Filling up the stadium, improving transit, and other aspects will need attention if Raleigh wants to secure an MLB team.
The City of Oaks already houses the Minor League Baseball Durham Bulls. Adding an MLB team to Raleigh could impact the business of the MiLB side. Nashville, Portland, Salt Lake City and Charlotte are in the race to enter MLB and are edging ahead.
The major concern for people opposed to MLB expansion in Raleigh, per Raleigh Magazine, is transportation congestion. While questions arose concerning where the stadium would be built, Downtown South has already received zoning for a stadium.
NC Sportsbook operators monitoring the situation closely
Fanatics is one of nine online sportsbook operators that have applied for a sports betting license in North Carolina. The company qualified to apply for the permit after signing a long-term partnership agreement with Carolina Hurricanes. Similarly, the other eight operators are associated with sports franchises or venues to qualify for a license application.
These applications are currently under review as the entire process requires at least 60 days. Once the application is approved, the operators must complete final preparations so they can launch when the market goes live.
However, North Carolina state law makes room for 13 licensed sportsbook operators, 11 commercial and two tribal, in its jurisdiction. Nine current operator applications are pending, leaving four spots open. What’s more, the law stipulates that any pro sports team can partner with a sportsbook.
Establishing an MLB team in Raleigh (or Charlotte) would enable another operator to start negotiations with the new team and strike a deal that could secure its entry into the NC sports betting market.
Many sports betting operators will have their eyes on that spot. Whether it is Raleigh or Charlotte, the Tar Heel State’s odds of getting an MLB side are improving.
Image Credit: Associated Press