Jeremy Levine founded StarStreet, a daily fantasy site that was quickly gobbled up by DraftKings and then put out to pasture. Levine then founded a second daily fantasy site — DRAFT — and that was eventually purchased by Paddy Power Betfair, which then bought FanDuel, which then merged DRAFT into Fanduel before eventually taking it out behind the woodshed.
But Levine wasn’t done yet, launching Underdog Fantasy in February 2020 with much of the same team that first launched DRAFT. And Underdog took off this year, with Best Ball tournaments leading the charge.
And while Underdog fantasy contests have received much praise from the DFS community, Levine’s latest foray into fantasy was just the beginning, as he and the company announced this month they were getting into the sportsbook industry, with an expected launch date sometime before the start of the 2022 NFL season.
An announcement from our team… pic.twitter.com/LXTGiYO7F8
— Underdog Fantasy (@UnderdogFantasy) September 8, 2021
While Levine’s first two companies basically landed in the laps of DraftKings and FanDuel, Levine now has a new objective: He aims to take over the sports betting and daily fantasy space and put both DraftKings and FanDuel in the rear view mirror.
“We want to be the biggest company in the space,” Levine told Sports Handle. “No one in this industry can build product, innovate, or provide great customer experience like we can. I’m a believer in product and innovation and treating customers well. And I think that’s a massive advantage we have.”
Levine said he expects Underdog to be the dominant force in the industry within seven years.
Plans from the beginning
Getting into the sportsbook space is not a snap decision by Levine, who is the president and chairman of the company. It was the plan from the beginning, although he notes the timeline is speeding up.
“Things have gone faster in the beginning than we expected,” Levine said.
And while Levine recognizes his company will be late to the sportsbook party, he’s convinced that the vast numbers of users Underdog already has will serve as rocket fuel to catch up to the big players.
“It was apparent to me when PASPA was repealed that DraftKings and FanDuel were going to be the two largest players in the space because of the inherent structural advantage they have of being able to draw players from their daily fantasy offerings,” Levine said. “And we have those same advantages, basically having a huge database of players that are sports bettors and have money in their account. That’s a big difference than a database of loyalty rewards players who signed up three and half years ago.
“Sure, the legacy casinos might have millions of loyalty rewards customers, but how many are grandmothers with rewards cards? We have a database of people playing daily fantasy for money, with money in their accounts.”
Levine said that in the last 30 days, Underdog has had more than 60,000 active players in its system.
“I don’t know how exactly that stacks us against others in the sportsbook industry, but my guess is that puts us in a tier right under FanDuel and DraftKings,” Levine said.
Not your grandfather’s sportsbook
Levine also plans on offering a dramatically different sports betting experience than what is currently available to would-be bettors.
“We’re really excited about one of our big initiatives: We’re going to build a not-so-traditional sportsbook,” Levine said, promising “a whole new live betting experience that doesn’t feel like the static sportsbook experience in the industry. Ours will look quite different. It will feel more like an immersive experience. And moving forward we’re looking at different platforms, like voice, augmented reality, virtual reality.”
In addition to the sportsbook, Levine and Underdog — which boasts an all-star cast of investors, including Marc Cuban, Kevin Durant and Adam Schefter — plan on offering a full suite of sports betting adjacent products, such as March Madness brackets, Survivor pools, Super Bowl squares, you name it.
“It’s always been a view of ours that winning companies in this space should have multiple pieces, multiple platforms, more than just being somewhere to place a bet,” Levine said. “The same customers like fantasy sports, March Madness brackets, survivor pools, collecting sports cards. They’re playing poker, they’re doing a whole bunch of things. It’s very clear to me the biggest companies in the space need to have the full suite of platforms. And we believe we can build this better than anyone else.”
Even, perhaps, a more “traditional” daily fantasy product?
“That’s definitely something we have in mind,” Levine said. “I don’t want to comment on specific products, but we’re going to listen to our customers and build for our customers and be the biggest company in the space.”
And as for the sportsbook?
“Basically everyone is targeting the same customers, with the same offers, with the same product, built on the same third party platforms,” Levine said. “There’s an opportunity to build something way more interesting and unique, and it’s not just about the sportsbook and it’s not just about traditional bets.”
Of course, Levine has a track record in this space, so betting against him seems like a fool’s errand.
But part of that track record involves having sold his companies as they were growing. Which raised the following question: Has anyone knocked on your door trying to buy Underdog?
“Absolutely,” Levine replied.
Follow-up question: Are you looking to sell?
“Absolutely not,” Levine said.