Fanatics, one of the largest online retailers of licensed sportswear and merchandise, was given initial approval for a retail sports betting license in Maryland on Thursday. The unanimous vote came during the monthly Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) meeting.
Fanatics still needs to get approval from the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) before it can officially launch a retail sportsbook in the Old Line State. There was no future site announced during Thursday’s meeting, though there are indications it will at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders.
Fanatics, operating under FBG Enterprises Opco, LLC, is expected to secure multiple in-person sportsbooks nationwide and expand into the mobile space once Maryland launches online sports wagering.
How Fanatics got here
Fanatics announced last year that it would be pushing into the sports betting market. Maryland’s license is the first for the retail company, which registered the BetFanatics trademark in May. It has not said who will be working with on the sportsbook.
On Wednesday, Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin sold his reported 10% stake in Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment for an undisclosed price. The idea is that he will focus his full attention on Fanatics as it ventures into a new industry. He referenced as much on his official Twitter account on Wednesday.
“As our Fanatics business has grown, so too have the obstacles I have to navigate to ensure our new businesses don’t conflict with my responsibilities as part-owner of the Sixers. With the launch of our trading cards and collectibles business earlier this year – which will have individual contracts with thousands of athletes globally – and a soon-to-launch sports betting operation, these new businesses will directly conflict with the ownership rules of sports leagues.”
Additionally, the sale of his HBSE stake – which includes ownership in the NBA‘s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL‘s New Jersey Devils – means BetFanatics would be clear to take bets on those teams.
Teaming up with the Commanders?
As mentioned above, there has been no physical site announced for an eventual Fanatics sportsbook in Maryland. However, a recent report indicates the company may be partnering with the Washington Commanders.
According to the Washington Business Journal, “Fanatics Sportsbook at FedEx Field” has recently appeared on numerous contractor lists. FedEx Field, home of the Commanders, is located in Prince George’s County.
Coupled with the news that Fanatics is headed toward a retail sports betting license in Maryland, this report suggests that construction for a Fanatics-branded sportsbook at FedEx Field “is underway or imminent.”
Also stated in the report is the fact that a permit for a retail store at the stadium is “in the process of being issued.” However, it does not indicate the retailer or use.
Where Maryland stands currently
There are currently five in-person sportsbooks available to the Maryland betting population at five different casinos. They are:
- Live! Casino & Hotel (FanDuel)
- MGM National Harbor (BetMGM)
- Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (Caesars)
- Hollywood Casino Perryville (Barstool)
- Ocean Downs Casino (TwinSpires)
Each casino’s respective operating partner is expected to launch a mobile app once online sports betting is live in Maryland. The lone exception will be Ocean Downs Casino, whose partner, TwinSpires, has discontinued its mobile sports wagering operations.
In addition to those five, SWARC has approved four other establishments for a sports wagering facility license. None of them have launched their respective physical sportsbook just yet.
- Riverboat-on-the-Potomac (PointsBet)
- Greenmount OTB
- Long Shot’s
- Bingo World (BetRivers)
If approved by SWARC, Fanatics would become the 10th approved retail sports betting license in Maryland.
Mobile betting in Maryland
The initial hope to launch online sports betting in the Old Line State was by the beginning of the upcoming NFL season. However, as time went on, it become increasingly likely that the state wouldn’t hit that mark. Some in the industry were skeptical it would even launch at all in 2022.
The frustration among Maryland bettors is apparent, and that sentiment is shared by the governor. Last week, Larry Hogan publicly pushed SWARC in a letter posted on Twitter. He urged the group to “act immediately” in hopes of hitting that original NFL Week 1 timeline.
“Instead of decisive action to implement the voters’ decision, you have allowed the process to stagnate and become mired in overly bureaucratic procedures that have needlessly delayed the state’s ability to maximize the revenue potential of this emerging industry,” Hogan wrote.
The SWARC met the following day, and despite the governor’s comments, there was no timeline set.
“I understand that many are frustrated that the process relating to the issuance of Maryland’s mobile sports wagering licenses has been time-consuming,” SWARC chairman Thomas Brandt said to start the meeting.
“I also want everyone to know that SWARC and its support team have been operating as diligently and deliberately as we can under the Maryland sports wagering law that we’re tasked to administer.”