About 48 hours before kickoff of Super Bowl LVI, FanDuel CEO Amy Howe described the massive event as a “seminal moment” for her company. The sportsbook offered 550 disparate markets on the clash between the Bengals and Rams, featuring bets on the coin toss, the game’s first touchdown scorer, and unique same-game parlays, Howe told a packed crowd at last week’s Bloomberg Power Players Summit in Los Angeles.
The high-profile event, which also featured appearances from DraftKings CEO Jason Robins and ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, took place at the Sheats-Goldstein Residence in Beverly Crest, known for its cameos in Hollywood films The Big Lebowski and Charlie’s Angels.
Howe, whose appointment as CEO of FanDuel became permanent in October, told the audience that FanDuel will remain focused on the new wave of fan engagement by exploring the convergence between sports media content and sports betting. Each week, for instance, FanDuel offers a “TNT Thursdays” same-game parlay promo, which provides customers with a rebate on a multi-leg parlay involving teams on the national NBA On TNT broadcast.
“Sports betting will forever change the way live sports fans experience the game,” Howe noted. “It doesn’t matter if the game is a blowout, you’re invested into the game no matter what the outcome is.”
"70-80% of consumers are more likely to watch the game if they're actually betting on the game. And we're barely scratching the surface. We are only in 14 states – we have a lot of runway ahead." @FanDuel Group CEO Amy Howe tells @Vaness_Perdomo #PowerPlayers pic.twitter.com/0zNBUVAeO1
— Bloomberg Live (@BloombergLive) February 12, 2022
Scratching the surface
There have been indications this month that FanDuel has increased its lead over industry rivals DraftKings and BetMGM, according to boutique research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. When the firm released 2021 figures last week, FanDuel captured a 36% share of online gross gaming revenue in the U.S. online sports betting market for the year. FanDuel widened its lead over DraftKings and BetMGM, which controlled about 24% and 15% of the market, respectively.
Nevertheless, Howe believes that the U.S. sports betting industry is still in the “early innings.” While customers in at least 30 states could place bets on last Sunday’s Super Bowl, legal sports betting is still not available in the nation’s three most-populous states: California, Texas, and Florida. Howe’s appearance at the summit came less than five months before proponents of a California sports betting referendum face a June deadline to gather enough signatures for the initiative to qualify for the November ballot.
FanDuel topped the U.S. OSB market in CY21 with 36% GGR share, per @EilersKrejcik ests. 3rd year in a row FD has led, and in CY21, FD widened GGR share gap with $DKNG to ~1200bps from ~700bps in CY20. U.S. OSB market remains in winners take-most-mode—top 3 brands have 75% share. pic.twitter.com/Y9krB60ROL
— Chris Krafcik (@CKrafcik) February 11, 2022
In the not too distant future, Howe envisions the integration of live odds into game broadcasts on a real-time basis. If the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers go on a quick 12-0 run against an opponent, she explained, the real-time odds may appear on the broadcast screen rather than the sportsbook platform alone.
At the same time, Howe emphasized the need for providing non-bettors with flexibility on the primary broadcast. If a family has young children watching the game, a company like FanDuel can design a tool that gives viewers the option of removing the live-odds display.
“We’re barely scratching the surface. We have a lot of runway ahead,” Howe said.
Robins remains intrigued by NFTs
While DraftKings has been one of many sports betting-related stocks to have fallen sharply in recently months, Robins remains confident in the industry’s long-term prospects.
Robins limited his comments to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) at last week’s event while appearing on a panel titled NFTs: The New Era in Sports Memorabilia, where he was joined by former NBA All-Star Baron Davis and NFL Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson. Weeks after DraftKings launched an NFT marketplace last July, a Motley Fool analyst described the move as perhaps the company’s smartest decision yet, citing the cross-selling potential of the collectibles market with other areas such as iGaming and online sports betting.
— Me2 (@topoftheworld77) February 16, 2022
During the session, Robins described DraftKings’ partnership with the NFL Players Association, in which the company created a variety of NFT-based fantasy games where users must own the token of select players who are picked for their fantasy lineups. From an intellectual property standpoint, Robins emphasized that athletes can own their NFTs in perpetuity rather than receiving a one-time payment, as is the case with baseball card sales.
In that regard, Robins drew comparisons between NFTs and the royalties that a TV show creator will receive from a syndicated sitcom long after the show’s final episode. The athletes, he noted, will continue to receive passive income from a lifetime annuity stream.
Midway through the panel, Robins was asked by moderator Jennifer Zabasajja if there is a world in which the NFT concept does not work.
“We all acknowledge that there is a market for collectibles, there is a market for art,” Robins said. “So people say, ‘It’s just a digital image. I can just make a copy of it. Why is this worth anything?’ My response is I can make a print of the Mona Lisa, [but] it doesn’t make it as valuable as the original.”
Other business news
Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and sports content at The Walt Disney Co., appeared on a separate panel on fan engagement with Bruin Capital CEO George Pyne, several days after Disney CEO Bob Chapek reiterated that sports betting will likely be an integral part of the company’s strategic framework moving forward. Over the past few years, ESPN has treaded carefully on embracing sports wagering, Pitaro indicated, before company research showed that fans have an appetite for that type of content.
“What we found is that one, our fans are not only okay with it, they are demanding it,” Pitaro said. “They expect ESPN to be offering this betting experience within our environment. Number two, we didn’t see any negative impact on the Disney brand.”
Pitaro did not address whether ESPN plans to license its sports betting brand to a top sportsbook operator, a hot topic within the sports betting industry over the last six months. With valuations of sports betting-related stocks at near all-time lows, several companies have been rumored as top takeover targets for Disney.
Pitaro did confirm that ESPN has expressed interest in acquiring the rights to the Sunday NFL Ticket package. DirecTV’s exclusive agreement with the NFL for Sunday Ticket expires after the 2022 season.
Wynn declines to address spinoff rumors
When asked on Tuesday’s quarterly earnings call if Wynn Resorts plans to spin off WynnBET, its digital sports betting arm, CEO Craig Billings demurred. Last month, rumors swirled that Wynn Resorts may look to offload Wynn Interactive when the New York Post reported that the company could sell the online betting division for as little as $500 million.
The $500 million price tag represents a considerable discount from the $3.2 billion valuation Wynn Interactive received last year. WynnBET eventually abandoned a planned merger with blank check company Austerlitz Acquisition that would have taken the online gaming division public.
“We don’t comment on market rumors or random press reports,” Billings said on the fourth-quarter earnings conference call.
$WYNN reports $785 million in Wynn Interactive sports betting & iGaming turnover during Q4 2021, a 29% sequential revenue increase despite major marketing spend cut, CEO Craig Billings said; Wynn expects further Q1 2022 cut, then to drop further in Q2; no mention of rumored sale
— Ryan Butler (@ButlerBets) February 15, 2022
Billings replaced predecessor Matt Maddox on Feb. 1. Maddox signaled last fall that the battle to acquire new sports betting customers is unsustainable for Wynn, as top sportsbook operators continue to engage in a spending frenzy to attract players through a litany of promotions. Moving forward, there are signs that Wynn could pivot away from sports betting while deepening its focus on iGaming.
“We were pretty explicit on the third-quarter call about not engaging in the unsustainable user acquisition blitz that has emerged, no pun intended, this NFL season,” Billings said. “The iGaming business, where we have actually seen pretty reasonable success, [is] a logical place for us in that business longer term.”