Fanatics Clears Hurdle In Maryland En Route to Sports Betting Launch

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Fanatics founder Michael Rubin eyes the sports betting market (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Fanatics is a step closer to launching a sportsbook, and Maryland is where it plans to do it. 

The longtime sports merch company was unanimously approved for a retail sports betting operator license today by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming (MLG) Commission. The license can be issued after MLG completes its full licensing investigation into the company. 

Fanatics Betting and Gaming’s VP of Regulatory Affairs Alex Smith thanked the commission for working with Fanatics as it prepares to enter the US sports betting market

“We’re hopeful that this will be our first gaming license, and we’re excited to reach this milestone,” said Smith. 

Which sports betting facility plans to partner with Fanatics is still unknown, although it is likely to be one of 17 locations designated for a facility license under state law. The licensing process for those facilities has been underway since 2021. 

The state has yet to begin the process of awarding up to 30 small retail licenses. That will be handled by competitive bid, with the application process starting sometime later this year.

Michael Rubin’s Sports Betting Play

On May 17, Fanatics filed a trademark application for a mobile sports betting application under the “BetFanatics” brand, according to a May 23 tweet by trademark attorney Josh Gerben

How Fanatics will fare in Maryland, or anywhere, as a mobile operator remains to be seen. But Fanatics founder Michael Rubin seems intent on success. 

Rubin announced Wednesday he is divesting his 10% ownership stake in Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, because of conflicts with Fanatics’ emerging sports betting business. Fanatics would not have been allowed to take bets on teams in which Rubin has ownership interest.

“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,” Rubin said in a statement. “… Given these realities, I will sadly be selling my stake in the Sixers and shifting from part-owner back to life-long fan.”

Rubin has brought on industry heavyweights like former FanDuel CEO Matt King and has said his goal is to be the “No. 1 player in the world in (the sports betting) business in 10 years.”

For now, though, Maryland may be the market to watch for Fanatics. 

Fanatics Would Be Maryland’s Eighth Retail Sportsbook

Fanatics would be the eighth sportsbook approved to operate in Maryland since the state launched retail sports betting last year. The other seven sportsbooks and their retail partners are as follows: 

  • Barstool Sports (Hollywood Casino in Perryville)
  • Caesars Sportsbook (Horseshoe Casino Baltimore)
  • FanDuel Sportsbook (Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover)
  • BetMGM (MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill)
  • TwinSpires (Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin)
  • PointsBet (Riverboat on the Potomac) – not yet operational
  • BetRivers (Bingo World) – not yet operational

Both Riverboat on the Potomac and Bingo World have been awarded sports betting facility licenses and will launch after completing all regulatory steps. The final step is a state-monitored demonstration of sportsbook operations signed off on by MLG staff.

A June 10 press release from MLG says the facilities “are expected to open in the near future.” 

The Pace Of Maryland’s Sports Betting Rollout

Retail sports betting in Maryland has been rolling out since Dec. 2021. Still to come is competitive licensing of up to 60 mobile sportsbooks and as many as 30 small retail sportsbooks not designated by law. 

Mobile and competitive retail licensing will be overseen by the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC). But the process so far has been slow. To date, SWARC has yet to approve draft regulations and a draft application for the mobile and competitive retail licensing process.

On June 16, SWARC Chairman Tom Brandt reportedly said he expects SWARC to begin accepting applications from potential licensees later this summer. 

“I expect the SWARC applications for mobile sports wagering and additional class B (retail) licenses to be published this summer and for SWARC to begin accepting applications shortly thereafter,” Brandt was reported as saying by WTOP News on June 16. 

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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