The first Fanatics Sportsbook opened Friday at FedExField for Maryland sports betting, kicking off a big year for the upstart entry.
Along with the announcement Fanatics opened its first retail sportsbook, the company also received approval for its Massachusets sports betting license from regulators this month.
The Maryland sportsbook keeps pace with CEO Michael Rubin‘s statement that Fanatics would start launching in January 2023. With one of the most anticipated US sports betting launches in some time, Rubin appears ready to begin the company’s assault on the industry, with planned entry in up to 20 states.
Rubin’s Fanatics buildout
Late last year, Rubin said Fanatics will be in “15 to 20” states by the start of 2023 NFL betting.
The past year has been highly active for Fanatics sports betting aspirations, as it hired former FanDuel CEO Matt King, raised $1.5 billion in March 2022 and trademarked BetFanatics. It raised another $700 million at the end of 2022, according to multiple media reports.
“In the betting business, we’re going to start launching in multiple states in January,” Rubin said in October at the 2022 CAA World Congress of Sports. “We’ll be in every major state, other than New York where you can’t make money, by next football season.”
Rubin plans for an interconnected system between the massive Fanatics merchandise database of more than 90 million people and the sports betting operation.
The sportsbook already has several US sports betting licenses in hand, but its full roll-out map is a mystery. However, an industry analyst recently told LSR, “it’s pretty easy” to figure out with the “price of access” going way down as some struggling operators are packing up and heading home.
Where we know Fanatics will be
The first Fanatics sportsbook opening in Maryland makes sense, as that was one of the states it secured a license in first, through a partnership with the NFL’s Washington Commanders. In Massachusetts Gaming Commission hearings, representatives said the online sportsbook should be ready for the expected March launch of the market.
The operator is also lined up for access to Ohio sports betting through partnerships with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Cleveland Guardians. The sportsbook also has a license application pending for Pennsylvania sports betting.
Representatives told the MGC there are five other licenses pending.
Possible untethered markets for Fanatics Sportsbook
While there have been no announcements regarding multiple untethered markets, the path forward is there for Fanatics.
Illinois reopened its application process for $20 million mobile licenses last year, which appeared ripe for the new industry entrant, though Fanatics could find its way in elsewhere with multiple tethered licenses still available.
Open license slots
No market-access deals for Fanatics have been announced. Multiple industry sources told LSR they have yet to hear anything as well.
On Friday, CNBC reported Fanatics was in talks to acquire BetParx, which is an active sportsbook in multiple markets, including Michigan, which is otherwise filled up in terms of sports betting licenses. A Fanatics spokesperson said there was no comment as of Friday afternoon. Rubin previously denied interest in acquiring a US operator.
One source with intimate knowledge of the company echoed Rubins’ comments: “They’ll be in every significant market.”
States with unused licenses, tethered and otherwise, include:
Maine is setting up its sports betting market, which will include licenses through the state’s four tribes.
How Fanatics could find more access
An industry source told LSR recently that there were rumors of an operator ready to sell some of its market-access deals, presumably to Fanatics. Rubin appears ready to shell out for those deals as well.
“So people that think licensing is a problem, to be clear, it’s 30 to 40% cheaper today than it was a year ago. So our patience saved us money,” Rubin said at the World Congress of Sports.
Fanatics has plenty of cash to burn for acquisitions, which could provide the sportsbook with more market access. While Fanatics could pony up the money for each state-access deal individually, it could also add a bulk of markets through an acquisition. That could mean acquiring a company like PointsBet, which has plenty of assets beyond market-access deals.
Last summer, CNBC reported Fanatics was negotiating to buy Tipico, which has multiple market-access deals, but nothing more emerged from those murmurs.
Licenses for sale?
Fanatics likely has the cash to look at a small casino or supplier to gain access to the otherwise-established market of Nevada. However, it could choose to ignore that market for now, as the daily fantasy sports giants FanDuel and DraftKings have for the most part since the DFS market requires a formal gaming license and there are restrictive in-person registration requirements.
TwinSpires is pulling out of online sports betting, which could open up a mobile AZ sports betting license soon. The TwinSpires license in Michigan was transferred to 888 Group for SI Sportsbook and Churchill Downs Inc. recently provided access to bet365 in Pennsylvania.
Retail-only for Fanatics Sportsbook?
Fanatics has jumped into retail sportsbook deals with professional sports teams, including the Commanders as well as the Bluejackets and Guardians. Perhaps the company is banking on its merchandising retail experience with teams to carry over to its retail sports betting endeavors.
By making its debut with a retail sportsbook, Fanatics could be signaling that retail-only markets will not be off limits.
That would mean states like Washington and Wisconsin, which allow sportsbooks at tribal casinos could be in play. Other states with retail-only include South Dakota, North Dakota, New Mexico and Mississippi.
Where Fanatics Sportsbook will not be, for now
Fanatics will not be in New York, at least at first, despite initially applying for a license in the market. While Rubin said sportsbooks “can’t make money” in NY sports betting, the company agreed to its 51% tax rate by applying for a license.
Similar to NY, Arkansas sports betting could be prohibitively expensive, requiring AR casinos to retain at least 51% of revenue from a third-party vendor.
Connecticut has three mobile licenses, all of which are tied up. The sportsbook will also not be in markets with monopolies on sports betting, including: