Fanatics will begin its much-anticipated US sports betting launch Friday with a retail book at the Washington Commanders’ FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.

The in-person Fanatics Sportsbook adjacent to the official Commanders team store will open Friday, about two months after Maryland regulators gave the book final approval. The opening comes during the 2023 NFL playoffs, but after the Commanders had been eliminated from playoff contention.

Washington Commanders Team President Jason Wright will be on hand for the opening, according to a press release, along with officials from Fanatics Betting and Gaming. It will be the first retail sportsbook to open within the confines of an NFL stadium.

Due to NFL policies, the book can not accept in-person bets on the dates of Commanders home games, but bettors can still place wagers while in the facility with legal online books in Maryland through their mobile devices.

The Fanatics Sportsbook joins Caesars, BetMGM, FanDuel, TwinSpires, Barstool, BetRivers, PointsBet, Betfred and DraftKings among operators running Maryland retail sports betting venues that have either started taking bets or announced plans to do so. Maryland’s first online sportsbooks opened in November 2022, and by December 2022 made up more than 95% of the state’s overall betting handle.

Fanatics begins sports betting push

Fanatics’ retail sportsbook opening Friday kicks off what will be a more significant push into US sports betting in multiple states, one that industry observers believe could shake up the current American sports betting corporate hierarchy.

With an 80m-person database, Fanatics officials believe they can convert the company’s sporting goods and memorabilia customers into high-value bettors. The ability to cross-promote betting with the nation’s most extensive collection of sporting goods will also help attract customers from the established sportsbooks, as well as those who have never bet before, Fanatics officials have said ahead of the launch.

The Fanatics Sportsbook will use Amelco technology for its core sports betting platform but the company has so far not publicly displayed the actual interface. Amelco’s most notable current US client is the Hard Rock Sportsbook, which is noted for its minimalist interface, but it’s too early to tell the structure of the Fanatics platform.

Fanatics missed the initial mobile sports wagering launch date in Maryland but is expected to start taking mobile bets in the state later this year. Fanatics is set to launch mobile sports betting in Massachusetts, potentially its first live market, as early as this March. The company also has a mobile sports betting license in Ohio, which launched its first mobile platforms earlier this month.

These states are set to begin what could be a nationwide expansion in more than a dozen additional markets. Due to market size and accessibility, other leading states for the mobile Fanatics sportsbook include Colorado, Indiana and Iowa.

The four legal online casino gaming states with competitive markets – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia – also seem like leading Fanatics targets. Sportsbook operators have significantly higher margins from online casino offerings such as slots and table games than they do their sports betting operations.

Another in-stadium sportsbook

Since the Supreme Court struck down the federal wagering ban in May 2018, more than 30 states have passed some sort of sports betting legalization bill. Maryland, as well as Ohio, Illinois, Arizona and neighboring Washington DC, allow in-stadium sportsbooks.

The Arizona Cardinals were the first NFL team to open on-property retail sportsbook, though it is not technically within the team’s State Farm Stadium. The NFL’s Cleveland Browns are also set to open a Bally Bet sportsbook near their stadium sometime this year.

In Ohio, the NHL’s Colombus Blue Jackets, MLS’ Colombus Crew and FC Cincinnati, NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, and MLB’s Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians, all have partnerships with sportsbook operators and are set to open in-stadium sports betting venues. In Illinois, Wrigley Field, home of MLB’s Chicago Cubs, and the United Center, home of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks and NBA’s Chicago Bulls, are also preparing retail sportsbooks.

The nation’s first retail sportsbook opened in Washington DC’s Capital One Arena in 2021.

Maryland officials advanced the Washington Commanders’ retail sportsbook license Wednesday, continuing plans for what would be the state’s first in-stadium sportsbook.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission voted 6-1 to forward the application for an in-person sportsbook at the Commanders’ FedEx Field in Landover. The state’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) must also approve the license, which could come as early as this month.

There’s still no timeline for when the potential FedEx Field book would open, though both team and state officials would clearly hope for an opening by this year’s football season. Commanders owner Dan Snyder did not address sportsbook specifics during a brief phone call to gaming regulators Wednesday.

Snyder has been investigated by the NFL for fostering what has been called a “toxic” work environment, an investigation that led to the departure of several high-profile team officials including the team’s lead radio announcer as well as its public relations manager. Sndyer’s wife, Tanya Snyder, was named co-owner and co-CEO in 2021 as part of an ensuing team management restructure.

The US House of Representatives House oversight committee is currently investigating Dan Snyder over the workplace acquisitions.

Gaming commission officials said Wednesday they had found nothing to prohibit the team from receiving a sports betting license following its own interviews and investigations. Dan Snyder was the sole person named in the application.

The Commanders have not publicly announced a sportsbook partner for the proposed FedEx Field facility. The team is partnered with FanDuel for a statewide mobile license in Virginia.

Assuming approval, the Commanders would follow the Arizona Cardinals as the second NFL team with an in-stadium retail sportsbook.

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder claims today:

– FedEx Field has been "dramatically upgraded"
– He expects "big-time attendance"
– and "We finally have ourselves a quarterback"

Snyder did not mention sportsbook plans during a brief address to Maryland gaming regulators

— Ryan Butler (@ButlerBets) August 10, 2022

The nation’s first in-stadium sportsbook opened in 2021 at Washington D.C.’s Capital One Arena, the home venue for the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. Another D.C. retail sportsbook has since opened at Nationals Park, home to the Washington Nationals.

Maryland’s gaming commission Wednesday also advanced retail licenses for a Betfred sportsbook at Long Shot’s OTB in Frederick as well as for the Boonsboro Events Center, which has not publicly announced a sportsbook partnership.

Up to 17 retail sportsbooks are specifically permitted under Maryland’s 2021 sports betting law. Six are open now, five of which are at casinos. FedEx Field, as well as the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium and the Baltimore Orioles’ Candem Yards, are also among the 17 named entities, though the latter two have not yet applied for sports betting licenses.

Wednesday’s vote comes as a timeline for Maryland’s lengthy online launch remains unclear.

Maryland voters approved statewide mobile wagering via a 2020 ballot measure and the ensuing legislation signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan in April 2021 technically legalized online betting in the state. But the law requires license approvals from both the gaming commission and the SWARC, further prolonging a complex process.

The SWARC has authority to award mobile licenses to up to 60 entities irregardless their affiliation with any land-based gaming facilities. Along with financial stability, criminal background checks and a host of other mandates, the commission is required to consider women, minority and small business ownership stakes in any applicant.

Though no timeline has been announced publicly, the SWARC has begun the sportsbook application process after months of delays. Gaming stakeholders are hoping for a mobile launch by this upcoming football season, though it remains too early to tell if that is possible.

Maryland could take as long as two years from bill signing to first mobile bet, far and away the longest turnaround of any of the more than 20 states with online wagering.