Fanatics Sportsbook’s Virginia launch marks just the latest expansion for one of the most serious challengers to enter the US online sports betting market.
Bettors in the state can now download the Fanatics Sportsbook app on both iOS and Android.
The launch follows on from Fanatics kick-off in West Virginia last week, which saw the business debut its integrated iGaming app.
Fanatics received its market access in the state from a partnership with the Colonial Downs Racetrack. The tethered licence was first awarded to PointsBet in November 2021.
The licence, following necessary regulatory approvals, transferred to Fanatics following the closing of the $225m acquisition of PointsBet’s US business in October.
Through the deal Fanatics gained market access to 14 states, with New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Wyoming, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Louisiana still to open.
The PointsBet deal was nearly torpedoed in June when DraftKings announced it was making a $195m all-cash offer for the business, an increase on Fanatics’ original $150m bid.
However, DraftKings said it would no longer pursue the acquisition after Fanatics opted to raise its offer.
Former PointsBet users can migrate their accounts, including their account balance and responsible gaming settings, to the new platform.
US competition heats up in H2 2023
After a round of market exits this year, new entrants have made inroads into the US sports betting market in a sign that competition could be heating up.
Backed by sports apparel giant Fanatics and led by former FanDuel chief Matt King, the sportsbook has expressed in the past its intention attain a serious market share.
The other big new challenger to the scene is Penn Entertainment’s ESPN Bet, which is hoping to capitalise on the most popular sports media brand in the US.
UK-based bookmaker bet365 is also highlighted as a potential challenger. The operator this week launched in Louisiana and secured a sportsbook partnership with the Charlotte Hornets in North Carolina.
“Celebrated for its passionate culture and festive spirit, we are thrilled to bring bet365 to Louisiana,” said a bet365 spokesperson.
Betr has officially launched its real money sportsbook in Virginia, the third US state to see the product go live.
The Betr Fantasy & Sportsbook app is now available in Virginia to iPhone users on the iOS Store, while the Betr – Microbetting app is available for Android users on the Google Play Store.
The Virginia launch will be Betr’s last under its so-called ‘V0’ product, as it prepares to launch its enhanced ‘V1’ sportsbook in additional and existing states in 2024.
The launch follows the operator’s acquisition of the Chameleon sportsbook platform from FansUnite, which it said enables it to “enhance and accelerate its product roadmap.”
Chameleon will serve as the foundation of Betr’s V1 product, which is set to feature significantly improved functionality including same game parlays, futures, props and other bet types, as well as adding more than 20 additional sports beyond American football and baseball.
Until the new product launch, Betr will continue to operate its V0 sportsbook in Ohio, Massachusetts and Virginia.
The operator also offers Betr Picks – its real money fantasy sports product – in an additional 24 states including California, Texas and Florida.
“We are thrilled to continue expanding our online sports betting business by launching in Virginia just in time for the NFL season,” said Betr founder and CEO Joey Levy.
“The state has a dynamic fan base across both collegiate and professional sports and we are excited to introduce our differentiated product experience to this market while continuing to bring our leadership in responsible gaming to Virginia, just as we have done in other jurisdictions.
“This now marks the 27th jurisdiction Betr is live for real money between having recently launched Betr Picks in 24 jurisdictions and being live with V0 of Betr Sportsbook in Ohio, Massachusetts, and now Virginia.”
Jake Paul-backed Betr has introduced core markets to its sports betting offering in Ohio to coincide with the NCAA basketball March Madness tournament.
The operator, which went live with real-money betting in Ohio on the market’s launch day, 1 January, previously focused exclusively on microbetting markets in order to provide a simplified, “instant gratification” betting experience to fans.
Now, the operator has confirmed that it has added core pre-match and in-play betting markets to the Betr platform, including on which team will win and over/under bets on total points.
Commenting on the decision to add core markets to Betr’s offering, founder and CEO Joey Levy said: “We deliberately launched with only microbetting to 1) launch as soon as possible, enabling us to learn from and iterate our product experience according to real user data and feedback.
“And 2) to establish ourselves as the company, product, and brand synonymous not just with instant gratification betting, which we believe will be the future of this industry, but to also be synonymous with doing things differently and being the first direct-to-consumer operator in the category to actually differentiate its product experience in an industry dominated by commoditised product experiences.
Betr founder & CEO Joey Levy: “We are putting Betr on a path to establishing betting market coverage product parity with incumbent operators, which will include the gradual and methodical integrations and launches of core markets, parlays, props, and many of the other betting experiences consumers can find elsewhere.”
“Now that we have done this successfully, we are putting Betr on a path to establishing betting market coverage product parity with incumbent operators, which will include the gradual and methodical integrations and launches of core markets, parlays, props, and many of the other betting experiences consumers can find elsewhere,” Levy concluded.
Betr’s core market offerings will be the first set of such bets to be powered by sports betting provider SimpleBet (of which Levy is also a co-founder) on any platform, marking a turning point for both companies as they attempt to take on more established operators in the US market.
In order to provide the best value possible to bettors, Betr said it will offer pre-market bets on core markets with 0% margin during March Madness.
It will also celebrate the tournament with a “Beat Derek’s Bracket” challenge, where users can go head-to-head with “Fade God” Derek Sullivan, “who has gained notoriety in the betting community for his abysmal betting record,” according to Betr.
The winner of the free-to-enter bracket challenge will win a $1,000 jackpot.
Betr has announced the challenge with a series of expletive-laden short videos published on its YouTube channel.
Following its launch in Ohio, Betr is expected to enter the Massachusetts and Virginia markets with its real money offering in due course.
It remains to be seen whether Betr’s expansion into core market bets will impact its licensing agreements in those states, as the firm had told regulators it would focus exclusively on microbetting markets when applying for its licences.
The operator previously suggested that it would avoid traditional betting markets as they were not familiar or easily accessible to a majority of non-bettors.
Betr has earned a sports betting license in Virginia, the company announced Monday, which will likely be the third launch market for the microbetting-focused startup.
The first US sports betting platform centered on microbetting, Betr has now earned licensure for real-money betting in three states. The company started taking bets in Ohio in January and is set to start taking wagers in Massachusetts later this month.
The company Monday did not announce a Virginia launch timeline. Virginia joins up to as many as a dozen states Betr is looking to go live in this year.
“We’re thrilled to receive approval for our sports betting license in Virginia, and appreciate the seamless work with the Virginia Lottery Board to bring our product to customers in Virginia,” said Joey Levy, Founder and CEO of Betr, in a statement. “This is an important milestone for us and we can’t wait to bring our differentiated product experience to sports fans throughout Virginia.”
First launch details
Betr’s Ohio launch was the quickest turnaround from a company’s founding to accepting its first real-money bets among any licensed sports betting operator in US history, according to the release.
In Ohio, the average bettor wagered more than 25 times, with 91% of bettors betting multiple times, according to Betr. More than 50% of users bet at least 10 times and 13% bet at least 50 times.
Betr’s platform, which doesn’t offer traditional moneyline, totals or spread bets, is targeting first-time bettors. Many of the platform’s bets are centered on player props, such as odds on a baseball player hitting a home run during their next at bat, for example.
In January, Betr generated just over $1m in handle, 14th among the 16 live Ohio sportsbooks. That amounted to roughly 0.1% of the state’s handle that month.
The company was one of just two sportsbooks (along with Caesars) that generated more in revenue than it paid out in free bets or other promotions.
Instead of competing with major handle market share leaders, Betr is looking to capture a narrower market of non-traditional sports bettors company officials have said. Much of the company’s marketing is centered around internet celebrity and boxer Jake Paul, a co-founder of Betr.
Since publicly launching in August 2022, Betr has grown its aggregate following to more than 1m while generating over 750m impressions and 45m engagements across its social channels, according to a release.
In Massachusetts, Betr will look to find a path around many of the major US sports betting leaders, including several with deep ties to the state.
FanDuel, the US market leader by gross gaming revenue, as well as Boston-based DraftKings are both set to start taking bets in the state March 10. MGM (BetMGM), Wynn (WynnBet) and Penn Entertainment (Barstool Sportsbook) all operate casinos in the state and are also expected to start taking mobile bets later this week. Caesars has also announced plans to take bets beginning March 10, and Bally Bet as well as the coming Fanatics sportsbook are also expected to go live in the state later this year.
Virginia presents an even more crowded market.
FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars, which combined have more than 80% of the US sports betting market share by handle, are all live. So too is European gaming giant bet365, as well as other national brands including PointsBet, BetRivers, Unibet, WynnBet and Barstool.
Betr is also applying for licensure in Indiana and Maryland with more set to follow this year, company officials have said.
North Carolina lawmakers are slated to introduce online sports betting legislation in the coming days, setting up the potential for another major legalization market.
North Carolina has been one of the most sought-after remaining online sports betting hopefuls since a mobile proposal narrowly fell last year. Retail sportsbooks are permitted at tribal casinos in the state but a statewide mobile market would be far more consequential.
If mobile betting is passed, it would likely make up more than 95% of the state’s total handle.
Speaking to North Carolina media outlets last week, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said he believed the bill would pass. This echoed similar sentiment from Republican supporters of the bill in the GOP-controlled legislature, according to the Raliegh-based News & Observer.
Potential market structure
If passed, North Carolina’s online sports betting market would be similar to neighboring Virginia’s.
Roughly a dozen sportsbooks would likely seek licensure, including market leaders FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM. Caesars, which operates the state’s two retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos in the western part of the state and is opening a resort casino just north of the North Carolina state board in Danville, Virginia, would also be a likely market entrant.
Other Virginia mobile sportsbooks and national brands including BetRivers, PointsBet and Barstool would also likely pursue licensure. The bill could also open the way for up-and-coming brands in the US such as bet365, Fanatics and Betr.
North Carolina is the nation’s ninth-most populated state and home to some of the country’s most high-profile collegiate sports programs, among the factors that would help generate interest from a wide range of sportsbooks.
However, in-state college betting could remain a political sticking point. Proponents argue allowing wagers on popular programs such as the Duke and University of North Carolina men’s basketball teams will be imperative to capturing players from the unregulated market. Opponents have worried legal sports betting could lead to corruption among college athletes, who are technically amateurs and not directly compensated for their athletic participation.
Virginia as well as Illinois, New York and New Jersey are among the legal mobile wagering states that have limits on in-state college betting.
Legal mobile North Carolina sports betting would help fill in one of the regions least amenable to regulated mobile wagering.
Unlike North Carolina’s northern neighbors, the South has been slower to adopt expanded gambling of any kind, including sports betting. Besides Virginia and Tennessee, the rest of the region has more limited wagering options.
Mobile betting in North Carolina could help spark further interest in Georgia, another top-10 population state with popular college sports programs. It will likely have minimal impact on South Carolina, even though it shares the metro area with Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest population center.
Bet365 started taking mobile sportsbooks in Virginia Tuesday, the fourth state launch for the European gaming giant that has slowly expanded in the US.
Tuesday’s Virginia launch follows launches in New Jersey, Colorado and Ohio. In Virginia, bet365 joins more than a dozen other live sportsbooks.
Bet365 started taking bets in Virginia months after it was licensed to do so and more than two years after the state’s first legal books launched.
It also launched months after its competitors in both New Jersey and Colorado. The book’s Jan. 1 launch in Ohio was the first time bet365 went live the first time it was permitted to do so in law.
Bet365 withdrew its Massachusetts online license application earlier this month and does not appear to have a future in the state. The company applied for a New York mobile license in 2021 but was not one of the nine operators selected.
The company’s future expansion plans remain uncertain. Iowa, Indiana and Arizona are among the state markets with favorable business environments that would seem like potential moves, but there have not been any publicly announced launch plans.
Slow and steady approach
One of Europe’s leading operators, bet365 has not pursued the US market nearly as aggressively as many of its competitors.
Flutter Entertainment, operator of well-known European companies including Paddy Power and Betfair, acquired FanDuel as its American-facing brand shortly after the US Supreme Court struck down the federal wagering ban in May 2018. FanDuel is now the leading US sportsbook by gross gaming revenue and is making up an increasing percentage of Flutter’s revenue overall.
Entain, operator of Coral and Ladbrokes, in 2018 announced a 50/50 joint venture with MGM Resorts to create BetMGM, which is now America’s third-leading sports betting operator by market share. Caesars, which acquired and rebranded venerable UK operator William Hill in 2021, is No. 4.
Boston-based DraftKings is the nation’s No. 2 operator by handle. It acquired gaming platform SBTech and went public in the US.
This quartet has combined for more than 80% of total US sports betting market share. A host of other international companies including PointsBet, Betfred and 888 have also launched sports betting platforms in the US, but have significantly less market share than the aforementioned quartet.
Bet365 has less than 1% market share in New Jersey and Colorado. Ohio’s first revenue report is expected to be released in February.
Though bet365 has not made much headway in the US it has also not lost nearly as much money as its competitors. All of the leading operators by market share have lost hundreds of millions of dollars annually in recent high-profile marketing and player acquisition efforts. Only FanDuel has ever posted a positive revenue quarter in the US.
Speculation continues swirly about a major move by bet365. Lauded by industry stakeholders for its platform and betting offerings, privately-held bet365 is also believed to have some of the deepest financial resources of any gaming company in the world.
Bet365 has so far launched each sportsbook under its eponymous brand, which is a household name in Europe but still little known in the US. As many American gaming companies have lost value in the past 12 months, industry figures have speculated bet365 may try to acquire a better-known US brand, as have many of its competitors, but there is no clear indication such a development is evident.
Tuesday’s bet365 launch brings another operator to what is becoming one of the nation’s more well-rounded markets.
All four leading operators have gone live in Virginia. So too have PointsBet, BetRivers and Barstool, which are also among the nation’s top operators by market share.
These seven books join 888’s SI sportsbook, WynnBet, Bally Bet, Unibet, Betway and Hard Rock. Golden Nugget also offered sports betting in the state before it was acquired by DraftKings and subsequently folded.
Virginia has one of the nation’s highest per capita as well as education levels, factors that correlate positively with sports betting participation. The Old Dominion is also opening four full-scale commercial casinos in the state, which are permitted under state law to open on-property retail sportsbooks.
Bet365 has extended its partnership with Genius Sports, boosting the company’s offerings ahead of an anticipated US expansion push.
The deal will grant bet365 access to Genius’ exclusive portfolio of official data rights including the NFL, the most wagered-upon sport in the US, as well as the Premier League, the United Kingdom’s top soccer league. Genius Sports will also provide bet365 with the first and only official data feed for betting on NCAA sports, according to a release from the two companies Monday.
“Expanding our partnership with bet365, the largest sports betting brand in the world, demonstrates our commitment to delivering the most innovative and compelling products for our customers,” said Mark Locke, CEO of Genius Sports, in a statement. “Across thousands of events a year, including top-tier competitions such as the Premier League and NFL, we will provide bet365 with the highest quality content and first-of-its-kind betting experience to power immersive and real-time betting markets for millions of customers worldwide.”
Genius and the Mid-American Conference (MAC) announced a deal earlier this year that gives data providers – and their sportsbook partners – more information for betting. Though nearly all legal US sports betting jurisdictions restrict or ban individual player prop bets at the college level, the deal gives more opportunities for team-level bets on college football and basketball, two of the other most wagered-upon sports in the US.
MAC football games are best known to American sports bettors for midweek “MACtion,” letting teams in the conference have a de facto national audience while not competing against larger conferences that play most of their games on Saturdays.
For bet365, the deal would give the sportsbook more US betting options than ever. One of the biggest names in global gaming, bet365 is also projected as one of if not the highest-grossing regulated online sportsbooks in Ontario.
After launching in New Jersey not long after the Supreme Court struck down the federal wagering ban in 2018, bet365 has only had one additional launch, in Colorado. The two states each have more than 20 live operators, the most of any US jurisdictions, and bet365 has not come close to the market share of US leaders FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars in either jurisdiction.
Genius CEO Mark Locke: “Expanding our partnership with bet365, the largest sports betting brand in the world, demonstrates our commitment to delivering the most innovative and compelling products for our customers.”
Bet365 is set to launch in Virginia as early as this year. It is also expected to launch in Ohio as early as Jan. 1, 2023, the first time the company will be prepared to go live in a US jurisdiction at the same time as its major competitors.
The company is also expected to pursue licensure in Maryland and Massachusetts with launches in both possible by next year. There are also more than a dozen additional online sports betting states where bet365 would have the potential for market access.
Industry stakeholders laud Bet365 for its already extensive array of betting offerings as well as its interface and underlying tech platform. One of the most lucrative privately held companies in the United Kingdom, bet365 also has the financial resources to launch an extensive marketing campaign.
The company’s reluctance to spend much on marketing in the US helps explain its continued market share struggles. While it’s a household name in many western European companies as well as Canada, most Americans – even bettors – are unfamiliar with the brand.
In Ohio, the company has marketed extensively for home games for MLB’s Cleveland Guardians, which are partnering with the sportsbook for a sports betting license in the state. The other most notable ad push has been at Yankee Stadium in New York, though bet365 does not have a license in the state.
A bolstered data deal – particularly for the NFL and college sports – is another asset bet365 can deploy as it begins to grow its US footprint. Though it may be years away (if ever) from nearing the massive market shares of the current US leaders, its financial and technological resources leave it as one of the likeliest sportsbook operators capable of shaking up the American sports betting status quo.