Is Fanatics Gearing Up for Potential California Sports Betting Launch?

Fanatics founder Michael Rubin has publicly pledged to adopt a long-term approach to building a sports betting behemoth, but the company has already made two separate $12.5 million contributions to the Prop 27 campaign in California. 

The most recent contribution came when Fanatics, which rose to prominence as a sports apparel and merchandise company in 2017, doubled down in mid-August after making its initial stake about a year prior to that. Fanatics is one of five companies that have donated $25 million to Prop 27. The other four? All companies who already run sportsbooks: DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and PENN Gaming (Barstool Sportsbook).

The $25 million in Fanatics contributions might appear to signal Rubin’s desire to have a sports betting platform operational by the time legalization comes to California. 

That, of course, could be as soon as November, when the rival Prop 26 and Prop 27 sports betting ballot initiatives square off in a statewide referendum. Prop 26 would legalize sports betting in-person at California tribal casinos and the state’s four horse racetracks. Prop 27 would legalize sports betting online.

Fanatics is also reportedly hiring 60 people for its betting and gaming division, BetFanatics, which will be led by former FanDuel CEO Matt King, per Legal Sports Report. 

Rubin made an appearance with host Colin Cowherd this week on FanDuel’s podcast, “The Volume,” and his comments belied any quick quest to dominate the California sports betting market.   

Rather, he stressed the inherent business-to-consumer nature of Fanatics, and a long-term goal to provide myriad services, including sports betting in the digital space. 

“It’s about servicing the digital sports fan wherever they want to be serviced,” Rubin said on the podcast. “When I think about Fanatics in the future and I potentially watch live sports, bet on them, get the jersey from the player I like, get the trading card of the digital NFT, get a ticket to an event all in one place, that’s like an incredible experience.”

PROP 26 vs. PROP 27: Here Are All the Groups That Support Prop 26 and Prop 27, and Why

Fast Forward to the Future of Fanatics and BetFanatics

Rubin told Cowherd that Fanatics, which is already in line to have retail sportsbooks in Maryland and Ohio, will produce $7 billion in revenue this year. Billionaires can parse their words with the best of them, but Rubin stressed that US legal sports betting is in its infancy. So he’s not worried Fanatics is getting a late start, compared to current industry giants like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM.

“I think 10 years from now, sports gambling is completely mainstream in most places in North America,” Rubin said. “I think the experience will also be demonstrably better. 

“ … So for us, we don’t worry about how things start, we worry about how they finish. … We’re going to make sure to create the best product for sports fans, the best experience, and we have huge strategic advantages.”  

The primary advantage comes in the form of 100 million names in the company’s database. Fanatics is a leading online purveyor of sports merchandise and collectibles, including NFTs. 

Don’t be surprised if Fanatics becomes a major player in the California sports betting scene if Prop 27 prevails in November. A better wager might come in the form of a futures bet on Fanatics becoming a one-stop online shop for California sports fans in the long run.   

“We really want to give the sports fan everything they want digitally in one place,” Rubin said. “I think that’s a massive opportunity.”

WORST-CASE SCENARIO: If Prop 26 and Prop 27 Both Fail, What’s Next for California Sports Betting?

About the Author

Kris Johnson

Kris Johnson is a Senior Writer at Gaming Today with more than 15 years of experience as a sports journalist. Kris' work has appeared in Sports Business Daily, Sports Business Journal, NASCAR Illustrated, and more. Kris also authored a sports betting novel entitled The Endgame.