The wait is over. No, the SCOTUS didn’t sneak one by you. But FanDuel has finally made an official public declaration about its future sports betting intentions should PASPA be struck down in Murphy vs. NCAA.
Company CEO Matt King dropped the dime in a recent wide-ranging interview with Forbes. King left no ambiguity around the matter when the subject came up:
“It would mean we would get into sports betting. This business is around fan engagement and helping fans feel closer to the things they like, and clearly sports betting is one way to help people to do that. So it would be very logical for us to get into it. We have some ideas of how to make that experience better and ones that we feel will resonate with our users. We think we’re uniquely positioned to fulfill that market demand.”
FanDuel hints at innovative angle to sports betting
Up to this point, it had been a foregone (but unsubstantiated) conclusion that FanDuel would follow DraftKings into the sports betting arena. After all, it was highly unlikely that they’d let their biggest competitor garner a foothold in a brand new and potentially lucrative real-money gaming market.
With their intentions now public, the next question is how FanDuel will offer the product. King teases an innovative approach in his comments, but it remains to be seen how much differentiation the operator can achieve with respect to product presentation and features. However, the overall news is certainly welcome. FanDuel’s decision to enter the space offers legalized sports betting the opportunity for exposure to an audience it already has partly captured, but that also contains a certain amount of untapped potential.
Company breaking with previously cautious approach?
The fact that FanDuel’s announcement comes several months after DraftKings unequivocally telegraphed its sports betting intentions with its hire of a Head of Sportsbook is fitting. After all, in the DFS realm, FanDuel has largely played the role of the buttoned-up, cautious older brother to its more freewheeling younger “sibling”. Under the previous leadership of Nigel Eccles, the company took a decidedly cautious tack, especially when it came to anything that could conceivably push the perception of DFS as a gambling activity.
That philosophy was personified in Eccles’ reasoning back in 2015 for not offering PGA- or NASCAR- themed contests. The former CEO declared both as too risky from a legal standpoint at that time, expressing that they could ultimately be in violation of the UIGEA’s requirement that the outcome of paid-entry fantasy sports contests be based on “multiple real-world sporting or other events.”
Consequently, FanDuel didn’t roll out its PGA offerings until 2017, three years after its rival. They trailed DraftKings by the same pace on NASCAR, as the late-April debut of their contests clocked in three years after DraftKings inked a deal with the auto racing giant.
However, the fact that both of those developments came with King at the helm was perhaps a harbinger of a new approach under new leadership. The company’s announcement of their sports-betting plans is another momentous step in this regard.
The thought of FanDuel getting this cozy with any form of gambling activity would have been essentially inconceivable just a handful of years ago, but their shift is yet another example of the unlikely bedfellows that Murphy vs. NCAA has brought about.