OPINION: These MLB Stadiums Need 5G Deals For In-Play Betting

Posted By Nicholaus Garcia on February 8, 2021

The new wireless technology making the rounds is 5G. It’s in all the new smartphones, tablets and soon, professional sports stadiums. It’s hailed as the future of digital service technology.

But there are other benefits to 5G. How about the ability to get cellular service inside a football stadium or while watching the Chicago White Sox inside Guaranteed Rate Field? Personally, there have been many times where I’ve wanted to send a text or a Tweet from inside a ballpark only to find I have zero bars.

Taking it a step further, I could only imagine my frustration if I wasn’t able to place an in-game wager on Sox centerfielder, Luis Robert, to hit a home run.

The relationship between 5G and mobile sports betting is tricky but promising, so follow me on this.

You probably already knew, only seven Major League Baseball (MLB) franchises are located in states where mobile sports betting is actually legal. But on top of that, only Illinois has passed a bill that could allow for sportsbooks inside its two Chicago ballparks.

Conversely, a baseball Mecca like New York should really get its act together and pass an online sports betting bill. New York could be the first to take advantage of 5G technology so customers can place bets while watching the NY Mets or NY Yankees from inside the stadium.

So what’s the hold-up?

Currently, MLB’s stance on sportsbooks inside stadiums is a big no. But, that hasn’t stopped teams like the Mets from partnering with 5G companies to provide the technology inside their ballpark.

But if New York can’t leverage mobile wagering and 5G, then who can?

Before we begin, there must be a few criteria. First, the ballpark must be located in a state where mobile wagering is legal. While it would be entertaining to watch and bet on the San Diego Padres, California sports betting isn’t happening anytime soon. Second, there has to be an immediate need for 5G and mobile sports betting in a state. Pennsylvania sports betting is live, but people aren’t lining up to bet on the Phillies or Pirates. Maybe the locals are, but I’m not.

Now, let’s examine the likely MLB franchises that could, and should, take a page from the NY Mets and land a 5G partnership.

Chicago Cubs: Wrigley Field

Illinois law states the seven sports venues across Chicago with capacities of over 17,000 could operate sports betting. So, this puts legendary Wrigley Field at the top of the list. Of course, there would be several steps the Chicago Cubs organization would need to complete. They would need to be licensed by the Illinois Gaming Board and pay a $10 million licensing fee for starters.

The team already announced a partnership with sports betting powerhouse DraftKings. So, should the day arrive when a sportsbook could be built, the team will be ready to take the next step.

But, if you have ever attended a day game on a Saturday at Wrigley, you know it’s almost impossible to get service. In the short term, a partnership with Verizon, AT&T, or another 5G provider, could go a long way when it comes to mobile sports betting.

Chicago White Sox: Guaranteed Rate Field

Like its rival to the north, Guaranteed Rate Field would benefit from not only a 5G partnership but a sports betting one as well. Why? Because the White Sox are good. And there is nothing better than betting on a good team. Ask anyone.

Do you think customers are betting on Sox players to hit home runs or players from the Cleveland Indians? My guess would be Chicago. According to data from ESPN, the Sox hit 96-HR in 2020 compared to 59-HR from Cleveland.

Even in football, who’s more likely to score, the Kansas City Cheifs or the Cinncinatti Bengals? I know which team has my vote.

Of course, there is no rush for either partnership. But again, the ability to pair both 5G and mobile wagering on the South Side from inside the ballpark would do wonders.

Colorado Rockies: Coors Field

Colorado sports betting emerged from the snow-capped mountains, grizzled and full of life. But nobody expected it to catch on as quickly as it did. In the eight months since sports betting went live, customers in Colorado have wagered over $1 billion. It’s safe to say the state has the industry’s attention.

Strong market base, check. Mobile sports betting, check. An MLB franchise, check. Yes, the Rockies did finish 26-34 last season but they have a stable of talent that provided a good outlook for 2021. That was of course before they traded All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Before that news, I would have said, Coors Field is a prime candidate to utilize 5G technology in its stadium. But now, I don’t think even Rockies fans want to bet on their team. Regardless, Coors Field has to be a top-three candidate.

Washington Nationals: Nationals Park

Okay, hear me out on this one.

The Washington Nationals finished the 2020 campaign 26-34. But, they are a year removed from a World Series title which keeps them relevant for another few months.

But what puts Nats Park on this list is DC sports betting which is slowly picking up traction. On top of this, the ballclub announced a partnership with BetMGM to bring a sportsbook to their doorstep.

Unlike the Chicago Cubs, the Nationals plan to have the BetMGM Sportsbook up and running later this year.

DC sports betting law allows for mobile wagering to take place within a two-block radius of major sporting arenas like Nats Park and the Capital One Arena. However, placing bets from inside one of the premier ballparks in the US will be a no-go.

If DC ever decides to change up the law, Nationals Park would be an excellent place to grab a hot dog, soak up the sun, and place a few bets.

Photo by Paul Beaty / Associated Press
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago and Washington, D.C., writing about politics, financial markets, and sports betting. He graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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