Get ready to see Jamie Foxx’s deadly-serious visage staring back at you as you stand facing any men’s room wall inside Great American Ball Park next season, the subliminal message one that Peter Edward Rose could surely appreciate.

In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to look anywhere without being reminded that while money may not be spent next season in the Ballpark Down By the River, more dollar bills will most certainly be raked in as the Reds become the second team in baseball to install a sportsbook mere feet from the diamond. The Reds new betting partner will also have a suite and club seats to fête the high rollers.

The Nascar-ification of baseball has been a long time coming as the Reds align their resources with BetMGM, including a permanent outfield sign that will likely still be there long after Elly De La Cruz has retired from the game:

“Additionally, under this new deal, BetMGM signage will be prominently featured at Great American Ball Park, including a permanent outfield wall sign, messaging behind home plate, and a branded foul line during select times.”

 

Due to MLB rules, you’ll only be able to enter the sportsbook from outside the ball park. This is intended to give the thinnest patina to the notion that baseball is keeping the integrity of the game at arm’s length, while it tattoos itself with a different message entirely inside the park.

“With sports gaming coming to Ohio, the Reds sought to bring the highest quality operator to our ballpark for those fans who choose to participate in sports gaming,” said Doug Healy, the Reds’ chief financial officer, said in a statement. “BetMGM is renowned for their expertise in entertainment and sports gaming, and we believe their brand best fits our high customer standards and will also help draw visitors to our city.”

Those “high customer standards” were on display via an empty ball park this season because of ownership’s very lack of “expertise” in creating on-field “entertainment.”

There’s an odd timing to the announcement, mere days after Nick Krall was sent out to deliver this pronouncement:

“We’re going to come into (2023) in a similar place that we are right now”

New revenue stream. Less spending. That’s the ticket. And completely on brand for a CFO. On-the-field entertainment has become passé.

“Thou art not for the fashion of these times, Where none will sweat but for promotion.”

Of the 12 playoff spots in this season’s expanded format, 9 were occupied by the top 12 in payroll for 2022, according to the website Spotrac. The 3 poverty teams to crash the party were the Guardians at $82M, the Rays at $104M, and the Mariners at $129M. Three of the top five teams in payroll have made it to the final four, with only the Astros—and their hardship payroll of $192M—rounding out the final field playing for a golden ticket to the World Series.

Money still talks.

Meanwhile, this:

34 Responses

  1. LDS

    Time to admit the Black Sox, McClain, and Rose to the HOF. If baseball has no integrity, why should the HOF. Gambling is simply another aspect of MLB, unlike perhaps trying to win ballgames. And the Reds ownership is among the worst I’ve seen in my 50+ years of being old enough to understand the economics. Small market you know, can’t spend. More correctly, choose not to.

  2. Kevin Patrick

    This is going to feel like standing behind the guy who buys lottery tickets at the gas station when you are just trying to get what you need. I’m tired of people exploiting those who have a compulsion to gamble. They may as well let people smoke inside the stadium again.

  3. Ahimsa

    Is Pete Rose invited to throw out the first betting ticket? lol

  4. Votto4life

    What’s next opium dens at GABP?

    • Harry Stoner

      I’m in.

      Along with a craft beer and a bratwurst.

      Two-fer deals when Strickland (or whoever the new Strickland will be) is pitching.

      The Reds’s hitting was soporific enough over the last month of the season.

      Placebo opiods could be sold and noone would know the difference.

  5. SultanofSwaff

    Professional sports is inherently a risk based enterprise. The large payroll teams back their championship talk with real money. For the other owners the talk is nothing but empty platitudes. Yeah, the Castellini’s got burned on a few contracts, but the lesson is not to cut payroll but rather accept this is the risk based business you got into. The long rebuild to open a relatively small competitive window is as much about reducing risk and locking in profits as it is about building a ‘sustainable’ winner. It’s a con that even big market teams like the Cubs have sold to their fans as somehow desirable. Not having a salary floor in the new CBA was the worst thing that could happen to competitive parity. It enables bad owners and is causing generational long damage to multiple fan bases.

    • BK

      What burned the Reds more than the bad contracts was COVID. The annual Forbes data supports the Ownership’s statements of operating the team on a break-even basis. Some read their yearly reports superficially and miss that “Operating Income” is the comparative basis used by Forbes. Operating Income excludes additional expense items, including interest and taxes, which are not just “paper” losses, but actual negative cashflows.

      Generally speaking, the larger market (higher revenue) teams could recover their losses better than the Reds–not that they needed another advantage. The comparative disparity in annual revenues also allows some teams to assume a lot more risk than other teams on contracts.

      Using Forbes 2022 data, six of this year’s playoff teams came from the top 10 teams in terms of franchise value. Four came from the middle ten teams, and just two came from the bottom ten–both of which are now out of the playoffs.

      Unfortunately, the CBA failed to address or even improve competitive balance. I agree that a salary floor would help.

      That said, the Red’s Ownership team has changed strategies multiple times since taking over in 2006. As such, they bear responsibility for fielding a consistently poor product. Some will posit that MLB attendance doesn’t matter, but the Reds are losing in the tens of millions in revenue each year compared to similarly sized markets (two of which are in our division), which further constrains payroll (and the ability to take risk). Market size presents a real challenge, but it doesn’t explain the whole problem.

      • Jim Walker

        My alternate professional league is the NHL. They announced this week that the conditions to end the pandemic restrictions on the salary cap are expected to come to fruition in time for the cap to be calculated by normal procedures for the 2023-24 season.

        The NHL anticipates that the $82.5m (USD) cap for 2022-23 will increase by $4-5m (5-6%) for next season vs the fixed $1m agreed to during the pandemic.

        So, while the Reds continue to sing the poor small market/ pandemic blues, CBJ is already swimming in the deep end just under the current NHL cap in a league moving past the pandemic in a big way.

        Yes, MLB does not have a cap and floor system (The NHL’s current floor is $61m) or a set % of baseball generated revenue that goes to the players (50/50 in the NHL); but until the local ownership quits operating like it is trying to get under the NHL cap (literally), they will earn no sympathy from me, zero.

      • BK

        Jim, I didn’t advocate for ownership sympathy, but rather explained how the Reds got to this point. Moreover, you make a great point: the NHL and their players came to an amicable agreement during COVID, just like in the NFL and NBA.

        In contrast, MLBPA was content to let the league lose billions. When those discussions were ongoing, I predicted that we would see several franchises cut payroll to cover the losses. I also pointed out that the Reds, because they had just increased their payroll significantly, would be among the worst hit.

        In the NBA, my team, the New Orleans Pelicans, is the smallest NBA market. Like CBJ, they spend right up to the cap ceiling. While you are dismissing the “small market/ pandemic blues,” you are actually pointing out that MLB is unique among the pro sports leagues in that some franchises have a structural advantage over others. The other leagues follow the same model, and it works.

      • Jim Walker

        BK>> 2 points.

        >>> I agree with having a cap and floor system and that it works. The advantage the other leagues had in pandemic mitigation over MLB was since their cap systems were already operating, the thorny question of which revenue streams counted toward the mitigation efforts had already been settled.

        As I recall, early on MLB and MLBPA thought they had an agreement and had announced it as a tentative agreement or at least a working framework for a final agreement. Then as details became clear a small subset of the owners (including the Reds) balked which threw everything into chaos much like this spring when essentially this same group of owners tried to hold the lockout settlement hostage to their whims.

        >>>Looking at MLB revenues versus NHL revenues, cap or not, if the Reds owners are unable or unwilling to spend (considerably) more on their player salaries than the NHL cap, they need to cash out and get on with life selling lettuce or whatever.

      • BK

        Jim, the problem is the next Owners will be stuck with the same financial situation as the current ones. Actually, it will probably be worse as they would likely have to take on significant debt to finance a transaction that would exceed a billion dollars.

        None of us knows exactly what gets said in the negotiations, but I believe you are conflating the COVID negotiations with the more recent CBA.

        The disagreement in the COVID negotiations centered around whether the Players had to agree to negotiate reduced salaries if there were no fans attending games. As you may recall, the initial agreement came out early in the pandemic when we all thought the problem would resolve in weeks. Unfortunately, COVID lingered for quite a bit longer.

        More to the point, we do know Owners across the league incurred billions in financial losses, and the players earned a fraction of their expected salaries. The two sides failed to find a consensus that would work to benefit of all sides. The other leagues found different paths because their CBAs unite the interest of Owners and Players on growing league revenues. Granted, the timing of MLB’s season was the worst of all leagues.

        Lastly, the Reds aren’t an NHL team. What they spend in comparison to another league’s cap is irrelevant because it misses the root of the problem. Why do the small market franchises in the other leagues thrive when they languish in MLB? You and others can dismiss the ramifications for small market teams, but that doesn’t make them go away. When you deny they exist, you just end up offering solutions that will temporarily appease the fan base but fail to deliver the needed change.

      • Jim Walker

        BK>> I have said I favor a cap and floor system. So, let’s look at it this way, in the NHL, the floor is roughly 75% of the cap. In both the NBA and NFL, the floor is 90% of the cap.

        MLB’s CBT system is effectively a soft cap. If it isn’t then why do megamarket teams that can afford to go higher work so hard at staying below the CBT threshold?

        For 2022, the CBT threshold was $230m. Since that is a tax threshold, let’s cut MLB owners some slack. The NBA tax threshold is 123% of the cap ceiling. So knock 23% off the MLB CBT threshold to get a potential cap of ~$177m.

        Now we can set a probable MLB floor off the $177m cap. Pick your poison next. I’ll be owner friendly and use the NHL cap to the floor of 75% versus the NBA/ NFL 90% and come up with a potential MLB floor of 132.8m

        Recall the Reds were competitive for a playoff spot in 2021; and, their 40 man annual payroll was $131.3m (Cot’s). Since they didn’t fall out until following the deadline, the $132.8 may be a bit high but not much. But even if $10m high. What does that say about the Reds squeezing the juice out of the lemon looking to go under $100m in 2023 except they are cheap?

      • BK

        Jim, I will argue that “cheap” is not the Red’s primary problem. Since the current ownership group bought the Reds, they’ve maintained payrolls well above their comparative market values. In other words, they outspent larger market teams yearly until COVID. I’ve already explained how COVID affected the Reds, so I won’t rehash it.

        Per Forbes, the Reds rank #26 (bottom five) in terms of franchise value, essentially a function of their revenue. Even this year, they are not in the bottom five for payroll, but they cut their payroll back from the middle tier of teams (that’s where they’ve typically been in the Castellini era). Moreover, the Forbes data supports that they operate the franchise on a break-even basis. So, to spend more means debt which is only feasible on a short-term basis.

        My data-informed opinion is they are spending what they can. The notion of whether the Reds spend enough is inherently subjective. In other words, “cheap” will never be a fact, just an opinion.

        However, there’s a flaw in the logic of comparing MLB to the NHL or another sport, as the franchises in the other major sports share a far greater percentage of revenues than in MLB. Compare MLB’s CBT level to the NFL (much higher revenue than MLB), the NBA, and NHL salary caps. Normalize their caps based on each league’s annual revenues. You will find that MLB’s CBT is the highest level by far. In other words, it’s a soft cap for the largest teams, not one based on what’s achievable by all teams. So, to use the MLB’s CBT levels as any basis for what is reasonable for the Reds or another small market team to spend is a false equivalency.

        I’ll predict we’ll see spending go back up as the team improves. Unfortunately, that’s the logical outcome of having a franchise in a league where some teams have constraints that others don’t have. If they pocket the payroll savings from this year and next, I’ll join the chorus, but that data is not available yet.

  6. Greenfield Red

    In my opinion, baseball is on a bad path, and if not corrected will become even less relavent than it is now.

    Current Administration, ownership, and players are all rolling like pigs in mud with all the money there is with no regard to what happens in the next 50 years. They are all getting their bloated shares while the production falters and interest falters.

    I can easily see baseball and soccer changing places in the next few decades in America.

    • Rednat

      i agree NFL IS KING. Mainly because it has the most talent but the equity over equality approach has worked for sure. i think over half the league is 3-3 right now.

      i give mlb a slight advantage over the nba just because mlb has a more intriguing playoff than the nba. there is at least some unpredictability during the post season which keeps things interesting. but both leagues are suffering from lack of talent which really creates a supply and demand issue which the nfl does not have to worry about. the best athletes are on the grid iron, not the ball diamond or court.

      i don’t know much about soccer but i do think mlb and the nba will lag behind the nfl in popularity for a long time

    • BK

      It wasn’t too long ago the NBA was dying … it’s thriving today with improved parity and revenue sharing. Owners and players work together and share the bounty. Same in the NFL, but they already dominate MLB from a revenue standpoint. My daughter, in her early 20s, follows an NHL team–we live on the Gulf Coast. She grew up a Reds fan but has all but lost interest: long and boring games, constant and very public labor bickering, and lack of competitive balance.

      I expect the NBA will pass MLB by the end of the decade, if not sooner.

  7. Mark Moore

    And the glittery spiral staircase into the realm of “Dancing Bears” appears at GABP. I would like to know why anyone would venture to that location if they are going to wager? Seems it’s a very limited market and it does ZERO to enhance the actual baseball game and park experience.

    Bottom line … who cares? We’ve know the integrity they claim is a thin veil at best and the emperor’s new clothes more likely.

    Sell the team, Bob & Phil. You don’t want to win and you don’t care about baseball fans. So quit pretending and cash it in.

  8. Tim

    I love how they call it “sports gaming “. Gambling and betting are the actual terms but too unsavory. Reeks of mafia which is what this ownership reminds me of.

  9. TR

    Is this a major move of current Red’s ownership in this offseason? If so, how sad a hundred plus years later after the Reds first W.S. championship, in the modern era, was devalued by the Black Sox gambling scandal of 1919. If current Red’s ownership cannot field a competitive team without a partnership with a retail sportsbook at GABP with the entrance on the outside, then baseball in Cincinnati is in big trouble down the road.

  10. Harry Stoner

    Reminds me of the days of my short stay in Cincinnati.

    Guys used to hand out water taxi tickets on the plaza at Riverfront to take you over to watch the women dance in Newport after a Reds game.

    Couldn’t have that in Cincinnati, not with Simon Leis around.

    Of course, the water taxi tickets were one-way and you had to find your own way home after drowning out a Reds’ loss with some bump and grind.

    I think the on site gambling is cheezy. There used to be so many nice racetracks around the Cincinnati / NKy area to go to for that.

    Are they still around?

    I know Rose hung around the tracks a lot. You’d think he would have got it out of his system, but apparently not.

    One night in Newport used to do it for me.

    At least until Mario Soto was pitching again.

    • TR

      The old days in Newport. It’s now gone upscale.

  11. Jim Delaney

    I think the game of baseball is fine, the current playoffs have been riveting and great theater. The game will also improve next season with the elimination of the shift, a pitch clock and umpires forcing hitters to stay in the batter’s box. That is the overall game as a REDS fan though it comes down to terrible ownership and leadership that doesn’t care about putting a winner on the field and only about profit margin. If the current ownership doesn’t want to spend money then sell the team. When the
    trading of Gray, Suarez, WInker started in the Spring, the big question around baseball nationally was Is the current REDS ownership gutting payroll to sell the franchise? Instead the ownership had the puppet Nick Krall sign anyone with a pulse to add payroll. The current ownership has no direction, no creativity, has hired people in leadership roles COO, GM, Manager, etc that didn’t have the resumes to get those positions. It is a sad day in MUDVILLE if you are a REDS fan, the only thing to do is to BOYCOTT the ballpark and not put a time in the Castellini, WIlliams and other REDS owners pockets…

  12. DataDumpster

    So now I see where the energy of the Red’s ownership has been all year. It is my understanding that this facility will have year round gambling in basically all major league sports and then some. This gambling den could take away a lot of business from the lame racinos and slot machine palaces like Belterra and Hard Rock Jack’s Horseshoe. Wouldn’t be surprised if the gross intake of this gambling facility will exceed the Red’s gate receipts in a few tears if the “rebuild” fails again.
    Its sad to have come to this but the owners will probably have a golden opportunity to sell the team or stack up some good players for 2024 to augment the (hopeful) maturation of all those good prospects.

    • Old Big Ed

      I don’t really see a sportsbook at the track as a big money generator for the Reds. Without seeing the terms of the deal, we won’t know, but the Reds may not even get a percent of the books’ take, but instead just the rent and the payments for the signage.

      Physical sportsbooks are like OTBs now — generally obsolete, because most people who want to bet a game (or race at an old OTB) now do so on-line, usually through a mobile device. I could see that it would work as a bar/restaurant to go to before/during the game or event (even a Bengals game) to watch other games, but I doubt that it will change much that goes on for the Reds games.

      • Old Big Ed

        Sportsbook at the “ballpark,” not track.

      • Jim Walker

        OBE> Our local Kroger has put in for a license to have a gaming kiosk. It seems to be the rage everywhere. I doubt Kroger is doing this to increase the traffic into the store or for a fixed amount of rent. Perhaps there are revenue streams and sharing schemes we don’t yet know about?

        The fact that some of the signage in the Reds deal with MGM was referred to as “permanent” suggests to me that MGM is more than simply a rent paying tenant. I don’t know and haven’t read elsewhere; but, my guess would be there is an annual minimum guaranteed to the Reds against flexible amount based on percentages of the take.

        Also, why wouldn’t MLB try to get a piece of the take from the gaming operators on all money bet on their games? They are essentially content providers to the gaming companies in the same sense as the with telecast/ streaming rights and cable/ streaming services.

      • Old Big Ed

        A lot of teams will have similar arrangements, depending on state law. It’s money, but I am skeptical it will be enough to matter, especially if all the other teams are doing the same thing. I definitely agree that if baseball is providing the content for wagering, it ought to get a cut of it. (And I bet the Phillies in late August at 35-1 to win the WS, so I am paying attention. If I can get them by the Padres, I can hedge the bet.)

        A Kroger kiosk is a new one on me. Kinda seems like the slot machines in gas stations that you see in Nevada.

      • Jim Walker

        OBE> The Kroger kiosk application was to run a sports gaming kiosk. They applied for them at a number (but not all) of their Dayton, OH area stores. They already sell lottery tickets (over the counter and via vending machines) which gave them an inside/ expedited track to apply for the kiosk licenses. The article I saw about this named their “partner” (gaming company) as stated in the application; but, I forget which company it is.

    • DataDumpster

      @Old Big Red. Just speculating as things change. The Reds are only the second MLB team to do this gambling fungo, so they must have a decent cut. I am just thinking that the old time race horse sheets and pulling the lever on cheesy slots will pale in comparison to the “experience” of getting into the atmosphere of the game and/or having the opportunity to bar hop around the stadium to watch your “action” as it unfolds. I know there is a younger generation who would rather bet from their bedrooms and check on their cellphones for the results but what is gambling without the experience of some level of “participating” in the wager… a big problem in my opinion but not that MGM or the Red care about that.

  13. Pablo

    I guess no word is out yet as to what the Reds cut of this “deal” is? It feels very slimy but “everyone is doing it.” And I also heard the talk of a gambling kiosk at Kroger. How can anyone afford that with prices the way they are??

    This all feels like Godfather 2 where the family has expanded out to Las Vegas and is jockeying for a bigger share of the pie. Phi is definitely Fredo.

    • Harry Stoner

      Ha!

      Cincinnati needs a Moe Green to slap Fredo Castellani around a little bit.

  14. Jim Walker

    For folks out of Ohio who aren’t aware, this is going down now because sports books become legal in Ohio as of 1 January 2023. Establishments (such as Kroger) that already sell lottery tickets or chance in the lottery KENO games are eligible to be fast tracked, apparently because they are considered to be pre vetted by the Lottery Commission.