As a resident of Los Angeles, FanDuel CEO Amy Howe has seen the onslaught of television commercials on the online sports betting measure first-hand. On Wednesday, Howe appeared on a panel at a business conference in New York City on issues associated with the sports betting ecosystem. There, she was joined by BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt for a rapid-fire, 25-minute discussion on top industry-related matters.
On Nov. 8, California voters will decide on Prop 27, a ballot initiative that seeks to legalize online sports wagering across the Golden State. At the same time, voters will also cast ballots on Proposition 26, which seeks to authorize retail sports wagering only on federally recognized tribal lands.
“The feedback we’ve had is that there has just been too much TV around Prop 27, and the counter-messaging from Prop 26 [is] just overwhelming voters,” Greenblatt told Sports Handle on the sidelines of the MarketWatch Best New Ideas In Money Festival in Manhattan. “We are pivoting to a much more direct-to-consumer approach to maximize our chances.”
Undeterred by polling data
The reworked approach involves an increased emphasis on direct mail advertising, along with digital marketing, Greenblatt added. His comments come on the heels of deflating polling numbers from an operator standpoint.
A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that approximately 54% of respondents opposed the digital wagering initiative. Those backing Prop 27 comprised only 34% of polled respondents.
“What I’ve learned is, in elections, you just never know,” Greenblatt said. “Polling is directional but not determinant.”
According to polling data, a strong majority of Republicans would vote “no,” compared with about half of Democrats and independent voters. The survey results were based on responses from 1,705 California adults, including 1,275 interviewed on cellphones and 430 on landlines.
Howe, meanwhile, reminded the audience about the dodgy compliance environment on the black market that could remain unchecked if Prop 27 is defeated.
“They don’t have the same [mechanisms] to verify the rigorous Know Your Customer processes that our customers have to go through,” Howe said. “The black market does not protect consumers. At the end of the day, this is going to fuel underaged gaming.”
The campaign that could bring legalized sports betting to California is the most expensive ballot-initiative fight in U.S. history at about $400 million and counting. https://t.co/bArJFwVJNM
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) September 22, 2022
At maturity, the California online sports betting market could generate around $3 billion in annual gross gaming revenue, according to estimates from gambling research firm Eilers & Krejcik. While onstage, Howe relayed a discussion she had with one of FanDuel’s senior finance executives to underscore the enormity of the California market.
With a GDP of $3.35 trillion in 2021, California would have been the world’s fifth-largest economy if it were a sovereign nation, she noted. The finance executive, who hails from Australia, told her that California is about 1.5 times larger than his native country based on population.
In the six months leading up to June 2021, 8% of Australian adults reported betting online, according to a comprehensive study from the Australian government. Of that group, 57% wagered on sports, topping horse racing, dog racing, esports, election wagering, and fantasy sports as the most popular form of wagering.
The total sports and horse betting market in Australia is estimated at $6.4 billion (in U.S. dollars annually). Any way you slice it, the California online sports betting market will be massive, Howe figures, if Prop 27 is approved.
Decent start at State Farm book
Earlier this month, BetMGM and the Arizona Cardinals made history with the opening of the BetMGM Sportsbook at State Farm Stadium. The two-story, 17,000-square-foot facility is the nation’s first retail sportsbook on an NFL campus.
The facility provides an interesting litmus test for the industry on whether strong foot traffic from a game will translate into robust betting activity. The BetMGM facility is located in The Great Lawn, a tailgating area located about 0.3 miles from the stadium. The Cardinals opened the season at home on Sept. 11 against the Chiefs before defeating the Raiders last week in Las Vegas. The sportsbook is open seven days a week, with amenities available on game days when the Cardinals are on the road.
During the opening game against the Chiefs, more than 66,000 geolocation checks were made from approximately 7,300 accounts at State Farm Stadium, according to Vancouver, B.C.-based geolocation solutions provider GeoComply. Of 10 NFL games tracked during the first two weeks of the season, the game ranked second among those monitored by GeoComply. The company counts a number of leading online sportsbooks among its clients, including BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel.
From GeoComply’s heat map, there appeared to be a good deal of activity on The Great Lawn, located west of the stadium.
For now, BetMGM is focused on honing the customer experience at the two-story facility, which includes a gourmet bar and grill. With a small sample size, Greenblatt did not provide a breakdown on game day handle for the opening week relative to when the Cardinals traveled out of state in Week 2.
“We’ve started slowly, very deliberately,” Greenblatt said. “I’m pleased with how it’s gone so far.”
Katzenberg: ‘Bet against Disney at your peril’
Former Disney executive and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg appeared on a panel on cybersecurity on Wednesday afternoon. While Katzenberg spent the bulk of his appearance discussing his partnership with Aura, a digital security company, he offered some thoughts on the current state of the streaming industry. Katzenberg noted that Amazon’s $1 billion a year purchase of the NFL’s Thursday night package indicates that the company considers live sports to be extremely valuable.
Katzenberg is also bullish on Disney’s live streaming business under CEO Bob Chapek. The company expects its Disney+ live streaming unit to become profitable by 2024.
“Bet against Disney at your peril,” Katzenberg said.
Earlier this month, Chapek indicated that ESPN will not accept bets directly, but will search for a third-party sportsbook as a potential partner. When asked by Sports Handle to enumerate the challenges that Disney faces in potentially entering the sports betting space, Katzenberg demurred. Instead, he pointed back to his onstage comments on Chapek’s ability to guide the company through a challenging period.
“He has a very clear strategy; he’s articulate,” Katzenberg said. “I think he has a good plan and he’s doing a really good job.”