Fanatics Hoping to Join Illinois Sports Betting Market in Time for 2023 NFL Season

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 24, 2023 08:00 PM
Fanatics Hoping to Join Illinois Sports Betting Market in Time for 2023 NFL Season

A new operator is set to join the Illinois sports betting market.

After agreeing to buy PointsBet's United States operations earlier this month, Fanatics sportsbook is scheduled to become the newest addition to sports betting in Illinois. Though the deal is still pending approval, officials from both the state and company are hopeful the up and coming online operator will be open for business soon.

How soon?

In time to capitalize on betting for the 2023 NFL season.

This timeline suggests Fanatics sportsbook will begin accepting wagers in Illinois no later than the end of August or early September. Is that a realistic goal? Or should we expect delays? And why is Fanatics entering the Illinois sports betting scene now? We've parsed this major announcement for all the necessary details.

Fanatics isn't the Only New Operator Joining the Illinois Sports Betting Network

The timeline to open Fanatics Sportsbook in Illinois seems ambitious on the surface. The 2023 NFL season is less than four months away. Can the state really launch an entirely new sportsbook in that time? Better yet, can they launch two new Illinois sportsbooks? Because as it turns out, Fanatics Sportsbook isn't the only operator joining the fold. Here's Dave Briggs from Play Illinois with the full breakdown:

"Illinois appears poised to welcome two new sportsbooks in 2023. On the weekend, Fanatics agreed to buy the U.S. operations of PointsBet for $150 million. If both shareholders and the Illinois Gaming Board approve the deal, Fanatics could take over from PointsBet in Illinois before the start of the lucrative NFL season in September. That’s the same time frame Circa Sportsbook is aiming to become the eighth Illinois sportsbook. In April, the IGB approved Circa’s license. Circa told PlayIllinois it is hoping to launch in August of this year."

So Fanatics and Circa each hope they'll be able to rank among the best NFL online betting sites in Illinois for the 2023 season. That, in theory, could make it difficult to launch both within weeks, if not days, of one another. Regulation and compliance red tape can be time-consuming. States typically take a year to complete the licensing and setup process.

But this isn't a typical situation. Illinois isn't new to the sports betting business. They accepted their first legal wager all the way back in March 2020—more than two years ago. They already have an infrastructure in place and don't need to begin the licensing process from scratch. That should allow them to expedite setups for Fanatics (and Circa).

Let's also remember that the state and their new sportsbook partners are extremely motivated to keep things moving. After all, NFL betting is the most profitable form of gambling in the United States. Last year, an estimated $100-plus billion was wagered at licensed operators in the United States. Not only that, but over 50 million Americans placed some type of bet on the Super Bowl alone. Mind you, this doesn't include anyone who bet with the top online sportsbooks located outside the United States. These totals could actually be much higher. Regardless, the overarching message is clear: It is in the best financial interests of both Illinois and Fanatics Sportsbook to have the former up and running in time for the 2023 NFL season.

How Fanatics Sportsbook Finally Cracked the Illinois Gambling Market

It isn't every year a sportsbook is able to crack one of the United States' top gambling markets. It doesn't matter how established the company might be. If you weren't licensed at the official sports betting launch, it can be difficult to enter the fray at a later date. Doing so requires a lot of waiting. It's also expensive when you consider the licensing fees.

So, how did Fanatics crack the code? They pounced at the right time.

For their part, Illinois is expanding their statewide gaming options. They have now moved from seven active sportsbooks to eight. Fanatics may have always secured that last spot. Then again, maybe not. Remember: They did not win a bid with Illinois. Fanatics Sportsbook is absorbing PointsBet's operations in the United States. Basically, one company was fortunate enough that the other was looking to vacate the burgeoning USA gambling market.

Which raises the question: Why is PointsBet leaving? There's no one answer, really. Most notably, though, PointsBet's primary base of operations is located in Australia. They ultimately determined an international operation at this scale was neither feasible nor profitable enough.

PointsBet also ran into some compliance issues when it came to advertising and partnerships. They recently dissolved a handful of agreements with colleges and universities. Those partnerships had started drawing the ire of government officials across the country. People weren't thrilled about the access college campuses provided to underage gamblers. Did that play a role in PointsBet leaving the United States? Or did they simply dissolve those partnerships to help expedite a sale they were already pursuing? We can't know for sure.

Fanatics Sportsbook is on the Rise Inside the United States

At a time when other sportsbooks are shrinking their operations as they get eclipsed by United States heavyweights like DraftKings, Caesars and FanDuel, Fanatics continues to aggressively chase expansion.

At present, Fanatics currently operates in four states: Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio and Tennessee. Of those four, PointsBet is operational in two of them. But they are also located in 10 additional states. That means Fanatics sportsbook will have access to 14 total markets if their purchase and subsequent licensing are approved.

Does Fanatics have what it takes to keep up with an increasingly competitive yet still centralized United States sports betting market? Only time will tell. But the Fanatics company at large recently received a valuation of around $31 billion. If any start-up sportsbook has the goodwill and capital to go head-to-head with more entrenched competitors, it sure seems like it's this one.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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