When Wynn Resorts announced last week that it will be unwinding its WynnBET wagering platform in eight states, it opened up an unexpected opportunity for any operator not currently live in two particular states.
The company said it will cease operations as soon as possible in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia and will reconsider its positions in Michigan and New York. Platforms in Massachusetts and Nevada, where the company has expansive retail locations, will continue.
Arizona and Virginia both have caps on the number of licenses allowed, and before the Wynn Resorts announcement, Arizona had already opened an application window to fill three potential slots, while Virginia officials told Sports Handle Monday that the Wynn decision “will free up a permit in Virginia.”
In Arizona, one of the most talked-about names in sports betting recently — Fanatics Sportsbook — does not currently have access. In Virginia, Fanatics has market access through its new partnership with PointsBet, and every major operator is already live in the state, meaning an opportunity for a regional or local platform could open up.
Will Fanatics find way into Arizona?
Fanatics declined to comment on its plans, but the first phase of its acquisition of PointsBet is scheduled to close Aug. 31, about a week before the start of the NFL season. It’s possible Fanatics will be available in Virginia ahead of the Sept. 7 NFL opener that features the Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs, as it will gain the right to acquire the entities that own and operate PointsBet’s business in at least three states.
There does not appear to be a way the platform could be licensed in Arizona by then.
At a New York State Gaming Commission meeting last week, NYSGC Executive Director Rob Williams said Fanatics has licenses pending in 12 states. Colorado regulators told the NYSGC that they have held licensing consideration of Fanatics’ sports betting operations, and regulators in Virginia and Kansas are expected to consider Fanatics’ applications by the end of the month. In addition, the New Jersey Department of Gaming is preparing to issue a transactional waiver to allow Fanatics to go live.
Arizona regulators on Aug. 1 opened an application window that closed Monday for two professional sports franchise licenses and one tribal license. It will not increase that number to four now that WynnBET has announced that it will exit, according to the Arizona Department of Gaming (ADOG).
The state allows for 20 digital platforms, 10 each for pro teams and tribes. When the ADOG launched digital event wagering on the first day of the 2021 NFL season, it did so with 18 licenses spoken for. ADOG licensed 10 tribes and eight professional sports franchises, leaving two licenses available.
Ten of the state’s 15-plus tribes were licensed at that time, but Fubo Sportsbook shuttered in December 2022, leaving the Ak-Chin Indian Community without a partner. WynnBET ceasing operations leaves the San Carlos Apache Tribe without a digital partner. That means that an additional license will be available.
Multiple licensing periods possible
ADOG previously said it will review applications for the three available licenses between Aug. 15-29, and if there are more applicants than licenses, it will review supplemental information and alert entities by Sept. 12 with a decision. New licensees would then have 180 days to launch.
Per state law, ADOG does not release what entities have applied for an application, and an ADOG spokesperson told Sports Handle that “the Department is aware of [WynnBET’s] recent announcement and does not have a further comment at this time.”
That no-comment would imply that the ADOG will keep the status quo during this licensing period and potentially open another licensing period once it’s clear exactly how WynnBET will leave the market. The company alerted customers Friday that the platform was shut down, but that accounts would be accessible for 60 days to allow bets to settle and customers to withdraw funds.
In Arizona, it is the pro sports franchise or tribe that holds a license. The expectation is that the United Soccer League Phoenix Rising, which was denied a license in the first go-round, will apply, but an ADOG spokesman said state law prohibits the agency from releasing a list of applicants.
A Virginia Lottery spokesperson told Sports Handle that the next application window in the state will be in May 2024, meaning that the next opportunity for an operator who wants in is about 10 months away.
According to the Virginia Lottery website, there are currently no licenses available. According to the lottery, there are 14 operators live in Virginia, not including WynnBET. Microbetting platform Betr was licensed in March, but has not yet gone live.