Recent Progress Brings BetFanatics Sportsbook Closer to Reality

Merchandiser’s sports betting plans move forward after billionaire CEO Michael Rubin agrees to sell stake in NBA and NHL teams. The next day, Maryland regulators gave BetFanatics a retail license.
The Fanatics logo is seen on a blue background.Billionaire CEO Michael Rubin agrees to sell stake in NBA and NHL teams. The next day, Maryland regulators gave BetFanatics a retail license.
By
June 23, 2022

These new businesses will directly conflict with the ownership rules of sports leagues.Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin said he plans to sell his stake in the company that owns NBA and NHL franchises in part to focus on its planned BetFanatics sportsbook without running afoul of league ownership rules.

Meanwhile, plans to someday build the first BetFanatics-branded sportsbook in Maryland moved forward on Thursday after a state regulatory agency issued Fanatics a license.

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Rubin: Sale Necessary to Avoid Gaming Issue With Leagues

In a tweeted letter on Wednesday, the billionaire said he would sell his approximately 10% stake in Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment (HBSE), which owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.

“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 wrote, adding that one of the businesses was a “soon-to-launch sports betting operation.

“These new businesses will directly conflict with the ownership rules of sports leagues.”

A sale price was not disclosed. According to reports, the deal is rumored to be worth about $300 million.

Rubin decided to sell his stake in HBSE one month after Florida-based Fanatics filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for rights to the BetFanatics name. The USPTO application shows it plans to launch a BetFanatics-branded sportsbook but also hinted at platforms to support online poker and casino gaming.

Maryland Regulator Approves License Application

We’re hopeful that this will be our first gaming license, and we’re excited to reach this milestone.Maryland could be one of the first states to see a retail BetFanatics Sportsbook.

At its meeting on Thursday, the Maryland State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) unanimously approved a sports wagering facility operator’s license application submitted by FBG Enterprises Opco LLC, a New York-based entity tied to Fanatics.

Before the vote, Alex Smith, Vice President for Regulatory Affairs at Fanatics Betting and Gaming, thanked the agency’s staff for its “assistance and professionalism” during the licensing process. “We’re hopeful that this will be our first gaming license, and we’re excited to reach this milestone,” Smith said.

MLGCA Managing Director John Mooney also thanked the agency’s staff “for continuing to complete investigations” into companies like Fanatics interested in acquiring a gaming license in the state. Such investigations are needed, he said, “so we can move sports wagering forward.”

The MLGCA operates the Maryland Lottery and serves as the state regulator for casino gaming and sports wagering.

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Stadium a Likely Home for BetFanatics Sportsbook

While Maryland has been moving at a torturous pace to get online and mobile sports betting off the ground, retail sports betting has been another matter with the first facilities opening in December 2021.

Maryland’s gaming law expressly granted licenses to 17 brick-and-mortar sites — including six commercial casinos, five off-track betting (OTB) facilities, three professional sports stadiums, two bingo halls, and two horse racetracks (which will share a license).

Although Fanatics’ application did not identify a specific venue with which it would partner, it’s likely that the company — which built its reputation and its fortunes as an officially licensed sports merchandiser — would want to partner with either the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens or Washington Commanders, or the MLB’s Baltimore Orioles. All three teams have stadiums in the state.

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