Fanatics Online Casino Could Launch in 2023, Says Chief Business Officer
Fanatics, the sports merchandise giant that is increasingly moving into the U.S. online sports betting space, is also looking to launch an online casino service this year.
The plans were confirmed this week by Fanatics Betting & Gaming division Chief Business Officer Ari Borod in an interview with podcast Gamble On.
Fanatics has already made significant moves this year in the sports betting market. It completed a six- month beta test among Ohio, Tennessee, Maryland, and Massachusetts online sportsbooks, before finalizing its $225 million acquisition of Australian-based PointsBet’s U.S. operations.
With Fanatics Sportsbook now launched in seven of the 14 sports betting markets it has potential access to, it is now setting its sights on the lucrative U.S. online casino market.
Online casino gaming, or iCasino gaming as Borod referred to it in the podcast, is currently regulated in six states – Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Regulated Rhode Island online casinos were added to the list in 2023, with a market expected to launch next year.
However, Fanatics will be limited to the existing six when they do launch. Rhode Island granted only two online casino licences to an existing partnership, slot developer IGT and the state capital Providence-based Bally’s Corporation.
“Fanatics is really a sports business. But longer term, as a gaming company, iCasino obviously is a very good business,” Borod said.
Long Term Strategy
Fanatics is absolutely moving into the online casino space, as its CBO has now confirmed. However, the company has taken a slow, long-term outlook on their sports betting launch, and Borod reiterated it will be adopting a similar approach for its online casino product.
“I think we should have our iCasino product live by the end of the year. But if we don’t feel it’s perfect yet, then it will be live at the beginning of next year,” he said.
Earlier this year, Borod’s boss, FBG CEO Matt King, spoke at length about the need to focus on crafting an engaging customer experience out of the gate instead of rushing a launch.
Borod had similar sentiments to share this week. “We take a pragmatic and deliberate approach in rolling out our product,” he said.
“So, we have the same commitment to improving the product side as we do in sports.”
The operator feels the slow approach is validated by its potentially giant database of committed sports fans from its huge merchandise business. Borod says this database, which Fanatics’ LinkedIn has at 100 million customers, is bigger than most U.S. casino reward programs membership combined.
This long-term thinking stands in contrast to the multiple U.S. sports betting operators who have had to relaunch their online betting apps this year after struggling against DraftKings and FanDuel.
WynnBET upgraded its online betting app, only to promptly close it down in eight states, and Bally Bet closed its service down for two months as it worked on improvements before a late August relaunch.
Innovation and New Markets
As well giving a general outline for the online casino plans, Borod also spoke on the continuing focus on innovating and improving the Fanatics Sportsbook product after the launch.
“I think there’s a need to improve product development in this category,” he said.
“I think FanDuel is number one. They probably have the best product out today, but I don’t think the category has seen what the best looks like yet.”
During the interview, the CBO also offered insight into Fanatics’ planned launch in the New York online sports betting market.
The nation’s biggest market of passionate sports bettors, with its consistent billion dollar handle months, is an attractive prospect for any operator. However, state regulator the New York Gaming Commission is in no hurry approving the transition from PointsBet to Fanatics Sportsbook.
“I would hope we get more clarity from them in the short term… but we can’t really speak to their time line,” Borod said.
However, he was also optimistic a license transfer would eventually be agreed upon. “I’m confident we’ll be able to get a good resolution there,” he said.