Fanatics Opens Retail Sportsbook at Nationwide Arena: Ryan Shazier, RJ Umberger Make First Bets

At 11:07 AM EST on Aug. 24, the grand opening of the Fanatics retail sportsbook at Nationwide Arena commenced with a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Shortly thereafter, Ohio State great and former Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Shazier placed the sportsbook’s first ever wager — a $20 bet on the Buckeyes to win the College Football National Championship.

The only retail sportsbook of its kind in downtown Columbus, the location officially opens to the public on Friday, August 25th. It is currently slated to be open from 12PM-10AM on weekdays & 11AM-10PM on weekends.

Fanatics Sportsbook Partners With the Columbus Blue Jackets

As the biggest city in a state whose sports betting market is less than a year old, Fanatics executives see Columbus as a prime opportunity for investment.

“We thought the Columbus market was a great place for it and the Jackets are more or less really one of one in the area,” said Fanatics Chief Business Officer Ari Borod. “Right downtown in the arena district, upwards of 45 games a year — including exhibition — and double that when you factor in other events such as concerts.”

In addition to providing access to tens of thousands of potential customers on a weekly basis, Fanatics’ partnership with the Columbus Blue Jackets is also grounded in a legal obligation that requires prospective operators to partner with professional sports franchises.

“Ohio is unique where you need to partner with a team to get your license, so we’re partners with the Jackets,” said Borod. “There’s marketing components and it’s really going to be a partnership effort to grow market share in Ohio.”

Perhaps most importantly, the opening of a retail sportsbook will help give Fanatics instant credibility in the greater area of Central Ohio and serve as a launchpad for the brand’s most highly anticipated product — the Fanatics mobile sportsbook app.

The Fanatics Mobile App: A Focus on Customer Experience

With the beta version of its mobile sportsbook app currently live in Ohio, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Maryland, the Fanatics mobile sportsbook brand is expected to launch in more states come this football season. In doing so, Fanatics’ biggest task will be competing with already established sportsbook brands such as DraftKings & FanDuel, which have already poured billions into marketing activities and collectively account for upwards of 70 percent of the US market.

To do so, Fanatics has prioritized making a product that can be disruptive by virtue of its user experience.

“The goal for both retail and online is creating the best customer experience,” said Borod. “Given that we were a second mover in the category, we know we have to build the best product.”

The journey to developing such a product is ultimately rooted in identifying the pitfalls that currently exist in other online sportsbooks. Fanatics has zeroed in on pain points such as mobile navigation and speed — as it pertains to placing bets and processing withdrawals — that currently exist on most online sportsbooks.

“What we hear from customers is that sportsbooks are confusing, and sportsbooks are hard to use. The goal is really all about ease and speed for the customer,” said Borod.

A Bet on the Buckeyes

Ryan Shazier (Ohio State LB 2011-2013) & RJ Umberger (Blue Jackets C 2008-2014) were the men of the hour at the grand opening participating in the ribbon cutting and being the first two people to place a bet at the sportsbook.

A local legend, Shazier loves the atmosphere that Fanatics has brought to the Columbus Arena district.

“I think this space is amazing, I’d love to come watch a game here, I’d love to place a bet here,” he said in an interview with Lineups at the grand opening. “This is a really cool spot right downtown. There’s a lot going on. You can get something to eat and come over here and watch a game and watch whatever you want to watch and I think people are going to enjoy it.”

In regards to his first wager, Shazier offered nothing but confidence — putting his trust in Ryan Day.

“I think Coach Day does a good job of finding great quarterbacks. He’s done it before and I don’t see why he can’t do it again.”

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Patrick started covering the sports betting scene in March of 2021 as a member of the Loyola Phoenix. Since then, his industry analysis has been featured on websites such as Lineups.com and Daily Fantasy Cafe, where he has focused primarily on the NFL and individual state launches. As the current Assistant Site Runner of Lineups.com, Patrick aims to give more people access to information that may offer some insight into why teams build the way they do and what that means for any given matchup.

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