Around the same time Erin Dolan was graduating from Penn State University in May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports wagering, allowing for rapid nationwide legalization and along with it a myriad of new industry opportunities for oddsmakers and sports media figures alike.
A Pennsylvania native whose love for track first took her to the University of Oregon, Dolan’s interest in broadcasting later brought her back home to Penn State. Then, in the fall of 2019 after a stint as a local sports reporter in Philadelphia, she landed at PointsBet when “I didn’t even know what a point spread was at first,” Dolan tells Sports Handle.
Now an on-air and on-social-media personality for FanDuel Sportsbook since January, Dolan has gotten the hang of sports betting and, just as important in her role, how to keep people engaged and entertained by it. We cover all that and more below. (Editor’s note: This interview was conducted on March 5, and lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
Sports Handle (SH): Where’d you grow up and go to school?
Erin Dolan (ED): I grew up outside Philadelphia in the suburbs in a town called Media, and went to high school at Cardinal O’Hara. So I’m from the East Coast, then I went to the University of Oregon for two years because I always ran track and field and cross country, and I was really into Steve Prefontaine. I wanted to do occupational and physical therapy, and I ended up taking a journalism class. Then I transferred my sophomore year and went to Penn State for the broadcasting program.
Athletically, I was involved in basically everything. Kind of grew up a tomboy. Well, I didn’t play every sport, like basketball, because I’m really, really short. So that was never an option for me. In general, the involvement in athletics helped me transition later into sports broadcasting.
SH: What were you doing professionally before you hooked up with PointsBet in 2019?
ED: I was a local sports reporter in Philadelphia, PHL 17, and then the Philadelphia Wings lacrosse team sideline reporter when I was at PHL 17. So, I did the local thing for about a year and then I wanted to get into something that was like exploding and expanding, and that brought me to sports betting — before anybody had shows on it. I mean, there were shows, but nothing to the extent now with everybody jumping into it. So I did that for a year and a half and then wanted to stay in gambling and, I guess you’d say, move up the ladder in a way, so I came to FanDuel.
This is what I would do: #Masters
— Erin Kate Dolan (@erinkatedolan) March 24, 2021
SH: What’s your schedule like now for FanDuel, between social media and the daily programs?
ED: Well, I just started two months ago and I’m still trying to figure out everything, but right now I’m on SportsGrid [FanDuel partner] in the morning on a show called The Early Line. It airs on Sirius XM from 7 to 9 a.m. Eastern. I talk about the tangible odds on that show for two hours. That’s a lot of work. And then in terms of the FanDuel side, I’m doing promotional content, breaking news, just tweeting. I feel like sports betting is a 24-hour business. So you can kind of talk and bet about anything, whenever. It never ends, so I’m keeping up with everything around the clock.
SH: What was it like entering a rapidly growing industry in the U.S., to the extent that, you’re not in the mold of a Sports Center anchor or traditional broadcast sports reporter — you’re kind of creating your own thing?
ED: Yeah, everything is just made from the ground up and everyone, every month, something changes in the sports betting industry, especially in terms of content. Because you can only talk about numbers for so long. So you can either go one of two routes, which I’ve realized now that I’ve been in the industry for a few years. You can go the really nerdy route — talk about numbers, trends, this and that — or you can go the more traditional path and explore how to make this entertaining: Why do you think this underdog is going to win?
But across the board, we’re all delivering the same information. It comes down to how we can deliver it in a more fun and entertaining way. And I think for the sportsbooks, the point is to get the views, to get people to download the app. This is about user engagement. As much as this is fun content for like NBC and ESPN, so they can just sell advertising, this is a totally different animal, getting people to physically download an app and want to bet on your site. So we have to try to find creative ways to do that.
SH: As far as your own betting and handicapping, what kind of research goes into your picks? Do you dabble in any modeling? Focus on trends, player reports?
ED: I read a lot and I obviously look at injury updates, player updates. I follow current trends, but I’m not that type of person, because I don’t believe that makes you win long-term. Anything can happen, one, in a game or leading up to a game. So what I do is, for example, the Knicks first half that was covering for 13 straight games — I’m always going to bet against them. But people would rather go with the trend like, ‘Oh, sweet we found a sweet spot.’ Like, no, that trend is going to end.
I’m big on betting underdogs. I don’t bet any favorites. I don’t like betting minus money at all. So I think I’m a little different in terms of that, but I mainly go off my gut and I read a lot and I don’t factor in a lot of historical trends. A lot of people you’ll hear, ‘Oh, over the last five years, over the last 10 years.’ To me, that doesn’t matter, all that matters is basically the previous game. There’s only just certain trends that I factor in.
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And maybe because I’ve been betting for a while, but I feel like a lot of new information that comes out, it’s all these people trying to get really, really into the statistical side of it. And sometimes I don’t find that to be one of the most entertaining, also for content, because that’s my main job. It’s not to make money off of FanDuel — it’s to produce content that I think will be engaging. But I look at it more from a gut perspective and the current trends.
SH: It’s just over a year since the NBA suspended play due to COVID, and then in July we’re hoping but don’t know if NBA and NHL would restart, or if there even would be football seasons. When the sports world was limited to only table tennis, Korean baseball and German soccer, what was that experience like for you work-wise?
ED: I mean, that was wild, because you’re covering sports that you’ve never talked about in your life. You’re trying to make it engaging and entertaining. People were waking up at random hours of the night to place bets on Korean baseball, like they didn’t really miss a beat. It was definitely a change. It was actually kind of sad because for a while there was no content that came out, because you didn’t want to be insensitive about a pandemic, because a lot of people were losing their jobs and then you’re telling them, ‘Hey, whatever money you have, go bet it.’
Working from home I think everyone’s adjusted at this point for a year. I think a lot of things are going to change in the broadcasting industry. In general, this is just the one industry that’s going to explode, and that’s what attracted me to it. I don’t think this is going to be a world that goes back to all these people in expensive broadcast studios. I think it’s all going to be digital streaming and things. Different types of Twitch shows. You can do stuff on Twitter, Instagram, anything.
— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) March 20, 2021
SH: You’re putting your picks out there on social media and various programs, and obviously they can’t all be winners, maybe 50-54% if you’re good, and social media can be pretty turbulent to put it mildly. What kind of feedback are you getting? Anything worth listening to?
ED: I think in my position, as opposed to some other people you’ll see at FanDuel or any sports betting company, I don’t put out picks every day. Like you said, around 50% if you’re good, and that’s true, too, when you post your picks online. I like to bet on the big events, so if it’s a UFC fight, I’m going to put out a video. If it’s the NFL, I’m putting out a video once a week with something that I like. But I don’t do it constantly, because you will get so much heat that it’s not worth it to me. You will seriously just get harassed online.
And I admire people who do put out their picks every day. But I will say that people would probably troll me, for instance, because they think I have inside information when I don’t. That’s a big misperception like, ‘Oh, you work for a sportsbook. You’re putting out a pick about your own sportsbook.’ Like they’re giving it to you is what they’ll say. And I’m like, ‘No, I don’t talk to anybody who’s giving me any type of sports pick. It’s always just me.’ But I shouldn’t say harassed — the online presence is a good and bad thing, double-edged sword. You’ll get the heat, but then as soon as you win one, everyone’s back on the bandwagon.
SH: I guess when you have an online presence, you need to be prepared to hear a lot of things on social media.
ED: Especially being a female in this industry. You’re going to get it constantly. I mean, I knew that coming into it, but luckily I have thick skin, so I generally don’t read comments. People have tweeted at saying ‘be more engaging in answering your followers,’ but I feel like when you engage with that, it’s almost worse. You know what I mean? Like getting in Twitter fights or things like that. I just stay completely away from that.
SH: Last question and then lightning round. What’s the worst beat you’ve suffered in the past calendar year?
ED: I would say Giants-Eagles in [NFL] Week 7. The total was like 43 and a half, I think they scored exactly 43. Jake Elliott missed a short field goal, an interception in the end zone, two-point conversion failed late … I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan, but I’m not a Carson Wentz fan and he was under center there.
Best fast food?
Favorite casino, not sportsbook, in the country?
Hmm. I’ll say Live! in Philly. But that’s got a sportsbook, too.
Favorite ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ character?
I’ve never seen the show.
Favorite musician or band right now? Not all-time necessarily?
Oh, you’re killing me, I have no idea. I’ll say Drake – he just dropped music today.
Favorite sporting events of the year betting or otherwise?
One word to describe Flyers mascot Gritty?