Check out this article for a detailed rundown on the contest rule. Registration is open until Sept. 29 at 1 pm ET. In a nutshell, contestants must pick a total of 70 games against the spread — any number of sides any week, whether 0 or 13 picks per week — from Weeks 4 through 17 of the NFL regular season. Buy-in is $500. Like the Las Vegas SuperContest, best record wins. Non-Jerseyans are welcome, however the rules state “picks for an entry cannot be made by any individual other than the owner of the DraftKings account that registered for the contest (i.e., no proxy play allowed).”
Meaning there will probably be a cohort of entrants from New York and Pennsylvania giving their EZ Pass some work on the weekends. Neither of those two states yet has a contest of this scale available within their borders. Obviously we’re calling attention to contest here, but it seems the contest is still flying under the radar.
For more information about the contest, DraftKings’ thinking behind it, and where a Super Pool may be headed next, Sports Handle recently spoke to DK’s Director of Sportsbook Product, Dan Hannigan-Daley.
Sports Handle (SH): What was DraftKings’ thinking behind offering an NFL pick ‘em contest of this scale?
Dan Hannigan-Daley (DHD): We’re very focused on the customer experience and the end customer. And I think this was an area where we already had existing technology with our pools. In November of last year in New Jersey, we wanted to kind of extend that into a season long variant of pools. This is a higher buy in, but obviously the entry goes for the full season.
There’s a few of these similar type contests out there across the U.S. and to be blunt, we get asked about these types of contests all the time. It’s just kind of a no brainer for us to extend what we have and offer something like this and put together a pretty big guaranteed prize pool, to make sure that it’s appealing and hopefully get some folks to travel from outside of New Jersey into the state and also try out our sportsbook if they haven’t already.
(Editor’s Note: If collected entry fees exceed the guaranteed $1M, the prize pool will increase according to the above percentages.)
SH: The kickoff for the Super Pool coincides with the NFL Week 4 games. Is there any reason for a Week 4 start? Was the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) impeding things?
DHD: No, I think we’ve actually worked really well with the DGE. They haven’t been a blocker for any of the stuff that we’ve been looking to do. I think for us it was largely just making sure that we had the experience locked in where we felt comfortable with it. We set a high bar with the product that we have in the market and we want to make sure that if we’re going to go out with it and there’s a pretty big buy in and pretty large guarantee, that we’ve got everything locked away as far as that experience goes.
To be totally truthful as well, we had so many things going on after Week 1 that we didn’t want this to be just another offer that potentially gets lost in the mix. It’s a pretty cool offering I think for a lot of users who are in similar type of contests, survivor pools with friends or whatever it might be, office pools. I’m sure there were some survivor picks on the Panthers [on Thursday night]. Hopefully this gives people another chance to get into more contests if they’ve already got knocked out.
(Editor’s Note: This conversation took place the morning after Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as a 6.5-point underdog at Carolina, defeated the Panthers 20-14 on Thursday Night Football.)
SH: There’s a couple more weeks where people can get signed up. As of right now there’s 39 entries in. With $1M guaranteed prizes, there’ll have to be 2,000 for DraftKings to avoid overlay. Are you guys thinking there may be overlay here?
DHD: For something like this where it’s fairly new, there’s always potential for that. We were definitely in the mindset that we want to go big with similar types of contests that we’ve run previously. Obviously we’ve done huge contests in daily fantasy and in a somewhat similar vein like the Sports Betting National Championship (SBNC). We don’t really know what the appetite is going to be, but it’s still a couple of weeks out.
I think we’ll probably see it unfold similar to what we saw with SBNC and obviously as in daily fantasy, where a lot of the money comes rushing in towards the tail end. Some users may not want to lock up that money a couple weeks in advance when obviously they can be wagering on games before then.
SH: Will DraftKings be offering a “Super Pool” contest like this and in another jurisdiction for this NFL season?
DHD: Not for this NFL season. I’m not sure how much awareness you have, but our pools product is not currently available in West Virginia where we launched recently, and it likely won’t be available in some of the other states.
We just want to get live first and then we’ll kind of focus on the secondary products that we might offer as well. Hopefully we can have it across state lines in some capacity at some point, to make the liquidity grow quite a bit. It’s just going to take time.
SH: Setting aside the Super Pool, what’s the most common feedback you guys receive from DraftKings users about the sportsbook product?
DHD: Most frequently it’s people in other states saying they want to use the sportsbook. We get users downloading the sportsbook app from all over the U.S. We do offer some free play products — we’ve got a Coors college football game and a Pepsi NFL game that’s live right now. So a lot of users are downloading it and playing around and might not know that sports betting is not quite regulated in their state. That’s honestly the biggest negative app review that we get — that the user can’t bet in their specific state.
But as far as New Jersey goes, I mean I think we’ve generally done a decent job with continuously iterating on the product and trying to reduce any of the issues as far as logins and making sure that you can do your biometric login, getting your money in, getting your money out, making sure that we’re tightened in those areas.
SH: Have you been surprised so far about the level of interest, either high or low, in any particular sport or betting market?
DHD: The non-major U.S. sports have been interesting for us. Tennis and live betting on tennis in particular. Across the rest of the world that’s always been a fairly popular sport as far as wagering goes, and it’s probably exceeded our expectations to an extent.
We did have some idea that it would be relatively decent but, something like the U.S. Open — I don’t have the numbers off hand, but there was considerable, considerable interest in some of our instant betting products around that, which was awesome. And that’s why we looked to extend that functionality into MLB, obviously NFL as well, I think we’ve got a soccer one going up fairly soon.
And we knew that the live betting would be pretty popular for certain sports and take a little bit of time for others. I think sportsbook users are probably more apt than on the daily fantasy side to try out different sports. In daily fantasy it’s not the easiest to go from an NFL pool and then start picking a lineup in tennis, whereas it’s pretty easy to extend it, say wagers from football to tennis. That’s been somewhat interesting.
Obviously props are pretty popular. I would say the number of users that we get coming over from daily fantasy for NBA, player props is crazy popular. College football’s crazy popular. Nothing too too crazy, but there’s things slightly exceeding expectations in some areas.
SH: Anything we didn’t cover you’d like to add?
DHD: We’ve got our Major League Baseball deal and the “Flash Bet” product that I mentioned earlier, were pretty keen on it for the whole postseason. I think we’re actually going to have pitch by pitch, current batter and next batter wagering, which I think will be pretty revolutionary. Pretty interesting experience that we’ll be running there. So hopefully the New York teams make a bit of a splash and we get some pretty good interest.