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With sports book bid, Jay-Z and Nets renew acquaintances and money making potential

2021 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the big surprises in the bidding for state sports betting licenses earlier this month was word that Jay-Z as an individual and RocNation corporately had invested in Fanatics Fanatics Betting & Gaming, one of six bidders ... and the one that had also enticed the Brooklyn Nets to join in.

Jay-Z in fact is the vice-chairman of Fanatics Betting & Gaming, which will operate the Fanatics Sports Book if it gets approved. His role, according to the bid, will be “help (Fanatics’ gaming division) attract new customers, engage existing sports bettors, and expand the overall footprint of the Fanatics sportsbook.”

He’s also on the board of directors of Fanatics along with Magic Johnson and Michael Rubin, a minority partner in the 76ers and founder and CEO of Fanatics which wants to become the digital one-stop shop for everything from jerseys to trading cards to sports betting.

As Mike Mazzeo of PlayNY writes Tuesday...

For Jay-Z, it seems like everything is coming full circle once again. This is yet another opportunity for his personal brand to help enhance one of his partner’s respective brands.

“Jay-Z’s name resonates in a way that most names don’t,” a source who knows Jay-Z well told PlayNY. “It shouldn’t be a surprise that as new industries develop and new platforms emerge, Jay-Z is going to be part of them. In many respects, he’s been ahead of the curve since Day 1.”

But he’s also doubling back to his early connections with the Brooklyn Nets, who have aligned themselves with Fanatics. Of course, Jay-Z, aka Sean Carter, was an early investor in the Nets and Barclays Center, going back to 2004 when the arena didn’t have a name. He held on to a minority share until 2013 when after becoming an sports he had to give up his interest. By that point, his share had shrunk 0.168 percent.

Now, though, he’s in business in the Nets again. Actually, it shouldn’t have been too big of a surprise. Bruce Ratner, who first brought Jay-Z into the club, may be long gone. Same with Mikhail Prokhorov who wanted him front and center. But a number of connections still exist as Mazzeo recounts. RocNation is heavily into sports representation, having repped both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at one point or another. And the co-CEO’s of RocNation are Brett Yormark and his twin brother, Michael. Brett, of course, served as CEO of BSE (Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment) parent of the Nets and Barclays Center, husbanding the move from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

Last week. Fanatics reached a “multiyear, retail partnership” with BSE Global, becoming the official e-commerce and physical retail partner of both the Nets Liberty. Fanatics will now power online and in-person shopping experiences at Barclays Center for both teams, including the newly renovated team store, renamed “Brooklyn Fanatics.” (As Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report reported the deal came barely three months after the Barclays Center team store became Brooklyn Style.)

The connections — and trust — are personal as well, as Mazzeo noted.

Jay-Z, Rubin and Clara Wu Tsai, Joe Tsai’s wife co-owner of the team, are all founding partners of the Meek Mill-inspired REFORM Alliance which has been trying — with some success — to reform the nation’s probation and parole systems. Jay-Z and Beyonce’ also sat courtside for Game 1 of the Nets-Bucks series, not far from the Tsais. It was their first visit to the arena in six years.

What might the connection look like if and when Fanatics wins the bid. Sports Books at Barclays, maybe where the 40-40 Club is now? Kiosks for bettors scattered around the arena? “Our marketing support is solely behind Fanatics,” a team insider said.

In his interview with Sportico, Joe Tsai spoke about how much he thinks sports betting will be tied into the team environment.“

“Media, sports betting, crypto—we see all those things converging a little bit,” Tsai explained. “You can’t talk about sports betting these days without thinking how that affects your media rights. And maybe, for the betting fan base, injecting a little bit of crypto will be interesting.”

Jay-Z, who has held gaming licenses elsewhere, might even wind up with a sports book at 40/40 Club in Manhattan, where as Mazzeo points out, Jay-Z’s connection with sports began.

According to several reports at the time, it was there in 2003 that Jason Kidd, then with the Nets, first suggested to Jay-Z that he should invest in the Nets. Not long after, Jay-Z purchased his minority stake in the team.

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