Landover typically only sees action about eight times a year when the Washington Commanders host NFL games at FedEx Field.
Now, the D.C. suburb will feature year-round Maryland sports betting action with the addition of Fanatics Sportsbook.
Officials with FedEx Field and Fanatics Sportsbook believe the first sportsbook inside an NFL stadium has the potential to be a game-changer. And while the potential of this novel idea is substantial, a few challenges must nevertheless be overcome.
The Fanatics Sportsbook experience
Maryland is one of a handful of legal sports betting jurisdictions allowing in-person betting to occur in professional sports venues. Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards could open on-site sportsbooks.
The merchandising and apparel giant debuted its gambling division this past Friday by opening a retail sportsbook next to the Fanatics team store inside the stadium.
Fans and gamblers have much to enjoy about the new Fanatics Sportsbook. Guests who walk through the book’s designated entrance at Gate H are greeted by a space with:
- Two giant LED video walls
- 38 television screens
- Eight betting windows
- 20+ self-serve betting kiosks
Food and drink are also available every day the book is open.
One can easily picture lines of Hogette-inspired fans waiting to place legal bets on game day. Except the NFL (which was part of a losing legal effort to prevent widespread legal sports betting in the U.S.) doesn’t think highly of that idea. The league’s gambling policy (updated since its Supreme Court defeat in 2018) prevents Fanatics Sportsbook from taking bets on Commanders’ game days.
That negates the built-in advantage of catering to enthused fans. Enticing patrons to visit FedEx Field on non-game days is going to be an uphill battle.
Fanatics Sportsbook latest attempt to reinvigorate the stadium
FedEx Field, itself, is something that could hinder the progress of Fanatics Sportsbook. The stadium opened in 1997 and is among the “older” venues in the NFL. The Commanders’ lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027.
Washington D.C. is a marquee media market and NFL owners want a facility that reflects it. Last year, news broke that a number of NFL owners want Daniel Snyder to sell the Washington Commanders partly because of his inability to work out a deal with Maryland officials for a new stadium.
Meanwhile, FedEx Field has been undergoing renovations and upgrades. The Fanatics Sportsbook is part of those capital improvements. Will it be enough to shake FedEx Field’s reputation, or will Fanatics Sportsbook have to relocate if (when?) the Commanders move?
In Maryland, online sports betting is king
Maryland online sports betting began in November 2022. The state’s publicly available data for December shows Marylanders were eager to start gambling online. The state Lottery & Gaming Control Agency report also highlights a well-known sportsbook industry reality: Online sports betting draws significantly more business.
New Jersey was the first state to recognize this fact when its online sports betting operators quickly dwarfed returns posted by multi-million-dollar sportsbooks inside Atlantic City casinos.
The contrast in Maryland is stark. In the first month of legal online sports betting, Marylanders gambled more money online ($478.2 million) than in the previous 10 months combined ($331.3 million) of retail-only betting.
Maryland casinos, off-track-betting parlors, independent operators and, now, stadium bookies cannot compete with mobile apps. On the plus side, the launch of a Fanatics online Sportsbook app is also in the works for this year.
Fanatics’ fit in a crowded sports betting market
The final challenge for Fanatics Sportsbook is not necessarily unique to Maryland or FedEx Field. It has more to do with market saturation, timing and competition.
Fanatics is entering a sports betting space that is already dominated by a handful of players. FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars and, to a lesser extent, Barstool, are prevalent across the country. These companies operate retail and online sportsbooks in almost every state they are licensed in, including Maryland.
FanDuel and DraftKings staked a majority claim of the Maryland market in December.
In fairness, Fanatics has two advantages that other late entrants will not: name recognition and deep pockets. Fanatics is the largest and most profitable name in officially licensed sports apparel.
Can Fanatics Sportsbook take a bite out of the Big Dogs’ U.S. market share?