Norfolk Tides Ink Deal With New Riverfront Neighbor HeadWaters Resort & Casino

Written By Dann Stupp on May 13, 2021 - Last Updated on July 31, 2023
Norfolk Tides

Virginia’s Norfolk Tides, a Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, have a new partner: HeadWaters Resort & Casino.

Officials recently announced a deal between the Triple-A baseball team and the soon-to-open Norfolk casino.

The partnership formally unites what will be two key fixtures of the Elizabeth River waterfront in downtown Norfolk. The Tides have called Harbor Park home since 1993. HeadWaters Resort & Casino will now be the team’s exclusive casino partner.

The $500 million HeadWaters Resort & Casino will ultimately be situated next to the overwhelming 12,000-seat stadium. Following approval from Norfolk voters, the Pamunkey Indian Tribal Gaming Authority moved forward on the massive Virginia casino project.

Sharing a riverfront with Norfolk Tides

Officials didn’t reveal the financial terms of the multiyear deal. However, HeadWaters Resort & Casino will have exclusive advertising rights with the Tides for casino gaming both in and out of the stadium.

Additionally, the Pamunkey Indiana Tribe, which will own and operate the casino, will get:

  • The largest advertisement on Harbor Park’s outfield walls
  • Branded merchandise sales at in-stadium retailers
  • Sponsorship of giveaways, between-inning contests, fireworks and other special events
  • A designated and branded suite in Harbor Park

While we think of professional sports franchises as big-buck enterprises, Minor League Baseball teams often operate on razor-thin margins. Corporate sponsorship and strategic partnerships are often vital to their bottom line.

Norfolk Tides owner Ken Young stated:

“We are excited about what the HeadWaters Resort & Casino’s partnership will do for the Tides and the entire community of Hampton Roads. Long-term commitments such as this one — and of this scale — provide long-term stability for the Tides organization and help ensure the future success of the organization.”

Virginia has five MiLB franchises, including the popular Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels. However, the Tides are the only Triple-A club (the highest level of Minor League Baseball) in the commonwealth.

Betting on Minor League Baseball

Here’s the thing about betting on Minor League Baseball games: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a place to do it. VA sportsbooks such as DraftKings and FanDuel offer a massive array of Major League Baseball betting options. However, you won’t find their Minor League counterparts.

A few legal jurisdictions, including Nevada, have dabbled in the betting market. However, bookmakers noted little interest from bettors, even for games involving the nearby Las Vegas Aviators.

Additionally, consider Virginia’s wagering ban on in-state schools. Lawmakers and regulators often cite the susceptibility of unpaid athletes to influence or even throw games. MiLB officials have pointed to the same concerns with lower-paid minor leaguers, who can make as little as $2,000 a month.

Still, the general lack of interest is probably the biggest reason the MiLB betting hasn’t taken off. (After all, if there were an eager market, unregulated offshore sportsbooks likely would have launched full-scale betting by now.)

One likely reason for that lack of interest is the very nature of Minor League Baseball. Sure, teams want to win, but the primary goal of a farm system is to develop Major League Baseball talent. Minor league teams will often prioritize player development over victories.

That means managers will often call plays and make substitutions with the simple goal of getting a specific player some experience. Major League Baseball takes a similar approach to preseason spring training games. And, well, you know how folks love to joke that only degenerates would dare bet on something as unpredictable as MLB spring training action.

Still, as Virginia sports betting continues to spread and bettors grow more adventurous and their tastes mature, don’t be surprised if MiLB wagering someday takes root.

Photo by AP / Keith Srakocic
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN, and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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