Shortly after the FanDuel mobile sportsbook launched in New Jersey in September of 2018, FanDuel Group president and COO Kip Levin was disturbed by something he saw on the company’s betting app—or rather, what he didn’t see.
At the time, the U.S. women’s national soccer team was playing qualifying matches to compete in the 2019 FIFA World Cup in France, which it eventually won to capture its second consecutive World Cup title. Levin noticed that one particular U.S. women’s qualifying match had failed to be listed on FanDuel’s app, prompting him to call his recently hired trading staff who had compiled the betting offerings.
“They had just started and said, ‘Oh, we didn’t list it. Typically in Australia and Europe, we wouldn’t get a lot of activity on this.’ I yelled at them and said, ‘You’re in the U.S. now!’ ” Levin said yesterday during a sports betting panel on The Way Back, which is part of SportTechie’s weekly live conversation series.
SPORTTECHIE DAILY: Get the Latest Industry Updates in Our Morning Newsletter
That was the last time a women’s World Cup qualifying match went unlisted on FanDuel’s sportsbook. Bettors in New Jersey ended up placing so many wagers on that year’s World Cup semifinals and final that it ended up being the most-wagered women’s sporting event in the history of Flutter Entertainment. The gaming conglomerate owns FanDuel in addition to U.K. bookmaker Betfair, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, and Sportsbet in Australia.
“We see a big opportunity across women’s sports, I think even more so than some of the international sports that are still fairly nascent here. While it is small in comparison to men’s sport, the interest [in the U.S.] is much higher than other parts of the world and I think it’s increasing,” Levin said.
FanDuel’s first official partnership with a women’s sports league came in 2017, when the company began offering WNBA daily fantasy contests. When the WNBA begins its 22-game season as expected later this month at IMG Academy in Florida, the FanDuel logo will appear on the jerseys of the New York Liberty for the first time.
INVESTMENTS: Rally Road Lets You Own a Piece of Rare Sports History Without Being Filthy Rich
Levin was joined on Wednesday’s panel by Becca Giden, senior analyst of sports and emerging verticals at gaming research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, as well as Jason Shapiro, chief revenue officer at Betcha Sports, a mobile daily fantasy startup that will launch this month.
You can watch the entire episode by registering for free. Here are some of the highlights.
On the potential of esports betting . . .
Shapiro: When you think about what exists overseas with Counter Strike and League of Legends, there’s already a lot of betting activity there. So we’re definitely really bullish on its potential, especially as the younger audience continues to move in toward being legal betters.
There’s a growing audience that overlaps between gamers and sports fans. Esports fills a different piece of the calendar of the day usually. A lot of times you get it in the morning or in the early afternoon because a lot of the teams and competitions take place overseas. So as a complementary piece where people have something to do during the day as they gear up for traditional sports at night, there’s a lot of potential around [esports] and it would be a huge boon to our business if we were able to make that happen.
Giden: From all the market analysis we’ve seen, it’s growing hugely but remains an incremental additive offering rather than on the fast track to being a major handle contributor, at least in the U.S.
We’re seeing more legislation actually explicitly mentioning esports. The bulk of the statutes from 2018 to 2019 were silent on esports and left it basically up to the regulators. But we saw Washington, Virginia, Colorado—they all explicitly deemed esports an eligible sporting event in the legislation. We do expect that to continue to more formally legitimize esports as a sporting event. The older regulations or legislation would define a sporting event with the words that use real life or in-person and that can create a barrier for operators to be able to offer esports.
Levin: We’ve done a lot around fantasy and esports during this period of shutdown. We’ve had moderate success around engagement for those contests, which have mostly been free to play. In other global markets across our business where [esports betting] is legal, we just haven’t seen the ramp-up that I think markets like Asia have seen. We’re keeping a close eye on it and will participate through our partnership with the Drone Racing League, but it still has a ways to go before it becomes a material part of our business.
On how the COVID-19 pandemic could impact sports betting . . .
Giden: There definitely is a renewed and increased urgency for legalizing sports betting, but I don’t think any one state is looking for this to be a sort of cash cow to their budget. This is an incremental opportunity to provide people a safer way to do what perhaps they’re already doing and a way for states to be able to take in some revenue from that activity. In all 50 states, there is a thriving offshore illegal market for sports betting and online casino games. That has not gone away.
Levin: Obviously we’re heading into or we are in a protracted recession. States already had pretty big deficits. Sports betting and online gaming is not going to make it all go away, but it’s already happening [illegally], and it’s generally accepted and there’s an opportunity to tax it. While it’s not going to solve all of every state’s deficit challenges, if you make it a competitive market and make it mobile from Day 1, there is meaningful tax revenue for states that will make a big impact on them trying to get out of the financial crisis that we’re in and seems like we’re going to be in for a long time.
Shapiro: Our core vision as a company is to layer on some social and gamification components on top of winning real money. We think that the ability to do those things through our platform, and the fact that we think of ourselves almost as much as a game itself as we do as a pseudo sports betting and daily fantasy platform, we actually think is going line up pretty well with the new COVID norm.
On the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 when making betting odds . . .
Levin: We’re focused on how we’re going to run pricing and risk of trading as players could come in and out of lineups as people test positive for COVID or there’s some question around a test and someone has to sit out. It will be different, but it will be different for everybody.
For us there’s always uncertainty, you never know when a player’s a late scratch because of an injury or they turned their ankle during warmups. If that creates an opportunity for people who are quicker on getting information from Twitter and breaking news, then great. There will be a bit more rigor around how we’re monitoring information, but it’s going to be a challenge for us and bettors as well.
Question? Comment? Story idea? Let us know at [email protected]