If The Washington Commanders Move To VA, Fanatics Sportsbook Can Follow

Written By T.J. McBride on July 24, 2023
The Washington Commanders could keep their deal with Fanatics if they move to Virginia.

The agreement struck by Tanya and Dan Snyder to sell the Washington Commanders to a Josh Harris-led ownership group for over $6 billion has been finalized.

Potentially, the sale could open the door for the Commanders to pack up and move to a new city. Virginia is in the running to become the next home of the Commanders.

If the Commanders make the leap to the Commonwealth, it is likely that Fanatics Sportsbook will follow.

Normally, the process of being awarded a sports betting license can be complicated or outright impossible if all the available licenses are already given out. That will not be a problem in Virginia.

Pro sports franchises operating Virginia sportsbooks do not count against cap

Virginia sports betting operator licenses are limited to 12 in Virginia. However, professional sports teams do not count against that cap, nor do Virginia casinos operating sportsbooks. If the Commanders made Virginia their home, their sportsbook partner, Fanatics, could join them.

The bill which allows pro sports teams to circumvent the sports betting license cap is HB 1847.

“The Director shall issue no fewer than four and no more than 12 permits pursuant to this section; … A permit shall not count toward this the minimum or maximum if it (i) is issued pursuant to subdivision 4 or 5 to a major league sports franchise or to the operator of a facility; (ii) is issued pursuant to subdivision 6 to an applicant that operates or intends to operate a casino gaming establishment; or (iii) is revoked, expires, or otherwise becomes not effective”

In short, any professional sports team that plays at least five games in Virginia (or has their headquarters here) will be given significant consideration for a sports betting license. Those licenses will not count against the cap. That opens the door for Fanatics to launch in Virginia, regardless of the current state of the sports betting market.

The sports betting industry in Virginia is already solid. In May, Virginians bet more than $403 million on sports. Enhanced Washington Commanders betting options could provide ways for the industry to grow even more.

Harris has plenty of ties to Fanatics

Harris leads the ownership group of the Philadelphia 76ers. That group included Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin for over a decade. The NBA forced Rubin to sell his stake in the team to continue operating his sportsbook. He opened the first brick-and-mortar Fanatics Sportsbook at FedEx Field in Maryland, the Commanders’ home field.

Fanatics is currently operating in just one state. Rubin has said he hopes to bring Fanatics to 15-20 states by the 2023 NFL regular season. The connection between Harris and Rubin may create an opportunity for future partnerships between them.

What are the chances the Commanders move to Virginia?

The group led by Harris agreed to buy the Commanders for $6.05 billion on May 12. Now that the Harris-led ownership group has taken over, the process of finding a new permanent home for the team can begin. According to ESPN, the Commanders seem to be leaning toward Virginia as their best option:

“Commanders leadership believes Virginia will offer the best incentive package – potentially up to $1.5 billion. That sum would nearly double the American-record $750 million in public funds the state of Nevada put toward a new Raiders stadium in 2017.”

The Commanders already acquired the rights to buy a 200-acre plot of land in Woodbridge. That report heightened speculation about the Commanders potentially starting the process of moving to Virginia.

There are a couple other options for the Commanders outside of Virginia. One would be to stay at FedEx Field and renovate the stadium. Another would be to return to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington D.C., which was the home of the franchise for about 40 years before it moved in 1996.

Photo by Rich Schultz/AP Photo
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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver. He is a Nuggets beat writer and also covers the regulated gambling industry across the U.S. His byline can be seen at ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report and more.

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