At least one of two tracks that host NASCAR races in North Carolina is likely to add a retail sportsbook: Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns and operates both CMS in suburban Concord and North Wilkesboro Speedway out near the Brushy Mountains, is assessing options for signing a sports betting partner and evaluating the viability of a retail shop, CMS executive vice president and general manager Greg Walter told Gaming Today.
Taking into account the availability of shopping, dining, and the population density in the Charlotte suburb off Interstate-85, CMS is on the pole.
“We are interested in pursuing all the economic development opportunities and sportsbooks are part of something like that,” Walter said. “The first place we would obviously look to perfect it would be Charlotte, given the frequency of events and the amount of tourism we have here. So, Charlotte would be first, and then we would look at what other opportunities are, including North Wilkesboro.”
Eight North Carolina professional sports venues — including the two tracks that host multiple NASCAR national touring series races — are eligible to open sportsbooks when retail and mobile betting launch after January 8.
Located near the headquarters of many NASCAR teams, CMS is considered the home turf of the series even though its headquarters is in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Is Concord the Perfect NASCAR Retail Sportsbook Location?
SMI’s motorsports empire in Concord includes CMS, a 170,000-capacity oval and road course that stages NASCAR and other stock car series, with ZMAX Dragway and a clay sprint car oval less than a mile away.
The property sits at the end of Bruton Smith Blvd., which bloomed restaurants and stores as Charlotte residents migrated to the northeast and NASCAR experienced a massive popularity spike through the early 2000s. CMS was built in 1959 under the direction of late SMI founder Bruton Smith, a big thinker and big personality who likely would not have passed on the opportunity to add a new playhouse to his empire.
“We’ve got all this land here as part of our complex, and the vision has always been — since Bruton founded the track — was development around here and continuing to make this a tourism destination,” Walter said. “I think what we’re finding is sportsbooks are a component to a bigger economic development play. That is, here’s one more reason for a tourist to choose this destination in terms of spending their money.
“So, you have sportsbooks, you have retail, you have entertainment, you have all these things going on, more and more reasons to come more frequently. That’s the play for all of us.”
Canceled Phoenix Raceway Sportsbook Won’t Impact CMS
Walter said that International Speedway Corp.’s abandoned plans for a Barstool Sports at Phoenix Raceway don’t impact SMI’s calculations. Some factors are similar for both plans, with Concord about 13 miles from Charlotte and the Avondale, Ariz., track about 18 from downtown Phoenix. Arizona already has mobile and online betting statewide as will North Carolina, meaning bettors in both states won’t need a retail sportsbook.
The difference is that while racetracks as sports venues don’t attract foot traffic many days in a year, Concord has many more shops, eateries, and attractions nearby.
A CMS sportsbook, therefore, was never likely to be inside the track. But SMI officials have interpreted North Carolina sports betting law as allowing them to open a retail sportsbook as much as 1.5 miles away from their property.
A spokesperson for NC Education couldn’t confirm that SMI officials are correct, and told Gaming Today that “no additional interpretation of that law has been made at this time.”
“It’s about a mile and a half, is the way I read the law, in terms of proximity to the venue,” Walter said. “But there’s lots of land we have adjacent to the track property that could be possible for developing out or partnering in terms of building something even bigger here.”
Bigger was long a Bruton Smith calling card. Still, SMI will need a sports betting partner with equally big aspirations. Discussions are underway.
“We are talking to several,” Walter said. “Obviously, with sports betting passed in the state, there’s a lot more engagement now and we’re still kind of in the preliminary phases. But we’re excited about where this journey will take us.”
Walter added that SMI has no internal deadlines for finding a partner or beginning construction.
North Wilkesboro A Less Likely Full-Time Sportsbook Site
So what about North Wilkesboro Speedway? Located 55 miles west of Winston-Salem — with a population of 4,239 — the track was shuttered by SMI for NASCAR racing in 1996 but returned as part of the All-Star event this year.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 17, 2023
Fans were enthusiastic and nostalgic for the return of the short oval built in 1949. But for sportsbook purposes, it has none of the benefits of a Concord location.
“I think that you have to look at each property, its uniqueness, foot traffic, frequency of events as to what’s going to make a good business case,” Walter said. “With North Wilkesboro, is it better to look at something that’s more mobile and temporary? Is that possible? Does that better suit the needs of our fans?
“In Charlotte, again, given the amount of traffic we have here and the millions of folks who come to this exit, a permanent one would seem to be on the surface to make more sense to put the brick and mortar in.”
Walter speculated that a temporary facility at North Wilkesboro could be erected at the track for NASCAR events, similar to the model that Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte and Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro will follow for PGA Tour events, per North Carolina sports betting law.