On Friday, Fanatics became the fourth sportsbook to form the necessary sports betting partnership required to entire the North Carolina sports betting market.
As first reported by Sports Business Journal, Fanatics partnered with the Carolina Hurricanes to gain NC market access. The details of the partnership have yet to be publicized, but they could include the development of a retail sportsbook in or near PNC Arena in Raleigh.
The recommended deadline for online sportsbooks to submit their applications for North Carolina online sports betting licenses is Dec. 27. Meeting that deadline would ensure that operators would be approved to launch on the earliest go-live date.
Fanatics snags high-value partnership with Hurricanes
As North Carolina sports betting partnerships go, the Carolina Hurricanes provide top-tier value for Fanatics.
In a state where both the NFL and NBA teams have scraped the bottom of their respective divisions, the Hurricanes have thrived. The Storm Surge is one of the best home-ice advantages in the NHL, and Rod Brind’Amour’s team consistently challenges for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
That’s coupled with a stadium approved for considerable upgrades, including a retail sportsbook, and an owner in Tom Dundon who’s already said he’d invest $800 million in developing the surrounding area.
For Fanatics, this means stepping into a thriving fanbase and a city that’s financially committed to upgrading PNC Arena.
SBJ indicated that none of the details of the partnership had been disclosed. That would include the term length–likely five or ten years–or the stipulation that Fanatics would need to open a sportsbook on PNC Arena premises.
Fanatics committed to retail and online expansion
Fanatics, a sports memorabilia brand that made a major into the US sports betting market with the $225-million purchase of PointsBet Sportsbook in June, is live in 11 states. Valued at over $30 billion, Fanatics has money and incentive.
Along with launching/rebranding in 11 states in the last year, it has opened three retail sportsbooks with pro sports teams.
The Fanatics Sportsbook, which opened in Jan. 2023 at FedEx Field in Maryland, is the only in-stadium sportsbook in the NFL.
Fanatics opened two more retail sportsbooks in August–one at Progressive Field (home of MLB’s Cleveland Indians) and the other at Nationwide Arena (home of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets).
While FanDuel and DraftKings enjoy a healthy clearance over all other US sportsbooks, Fanatics will vie with a competitive group of brands, including BetMGM, Caesars and Bet365, that typically account for 5%-10% of the market. ESPN Bet, the other sports brand crossing over into the legal gambling industry, may also shoulder its way into that discussion after a strong showing in its first month of business.
With a Carolina Hurricanes partnership, Fanatics has positioned itself to continue its retail and online sports betting attack in North Carolina.
Carolina Panthers on the outside looking in
As the last major sports team without a sports betting partner, the Carolina Panthers may find themselves reconsidering their position.
As SBJ noted, “the team went to market expecting a higher market access fee than the leaders were willing to pay. That, coupled with an expressed desire to open a retail sportsbook at the stadium, led operators who might otherwise want a deal with an NFL team to move on.”
This suggests that market leaders like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM set their sights on online-only agreements in North Carolina and weren’t interested in the expense of building a retail sportsbook.
With Fanatics now off the table, Tepper Sports and Entertainment, the Carolina Panthers ownership group, may not find a suitor willing to pay top dollar for the branding opportunity an NFL partnership would garner, considering that it would also come with pressure to open a brick and mortar book.
Pieces falling into place in North Carolina
DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars have yet to announce their sports betting partnerships. However, Caesars already operates two Harrah’s casinos with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and so it would likely receive its license through the tribe.
That leaves DraftKings and BetMGM. If neither of them partners with the Panthers, that leaves a handful of smaller market sportsbooks, including, BetWay, BetRivers, Hard Rock and Tipico, that would be left to find a way to negotiate down the Panthers’ initial fee.
Without disclosing a launch date, the NC Lottery Commission has stressed the importance of operators submitting applications as soon as possible and before the recommended deadline of Dec. 27, 2023.
The NCLC has already ruled out a launch by the 2024 Super Bowl on Feb. 11. However, the state has set aside 60 days to vet applicants, which could leave room for online sports betting to launch by March Madness 2024.
If so, we expect to hear about a few more sports betting partnerships in the next week as those operators will want to be ready to capitalize on the year’s biggest two weeks of sports betting.
Image Credit: Karl B DeBlaker / AP Images