FanDuel CEO Matt King On “What’s In A Name?” For A Meadowlands Sportsbook

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Renowned Irish bookmaking company Paddy Power, British counterpart Betfair, horse racing and wagering channel TVG, and daily fantasy sports brands FanDuel and DRAFT have all joined forces to become a sports tech and entertainment company with more than 8 million customers in 45 U.S. states with $265 million in annual revenues.

So what to call the new sports book at the Meadowlands Racetrack, its new sports betting partner?

Matt King, CEO of the newly-named FanDuel Group conglomerate, told njonlinegambling.com in an exclusive interview during Saturday’s sports betting kickoff that the decision wasn’t immediately obvious to company executives.

“We didn’t go into this saying it had to be the FanDuel brand for sports betting,” King revealed. “We just said, ‘Let’s look into it and figure out, what is the right answer?'”

“What we found is that there was such a strong linkage with our brand to sports and to excitement and to real money,” King added. “There was also the issue of trust — so that even people who never played our product, when we asked what brand would you be interested in for sports betting, we were at the top of the list.”

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Remember all those FanDuel commercials?

While King is too diplomatic to say so, those ubiquitous commercials during football games in 2015 by FanDuel and rival DraftKings may have set up the conglomerate nicely in terms of crucial brand-name recognition now that the widespread U.S. sports betting is dawning.

King also said that the decision was made to harness the decades of business experience of foreign powerhouses Paddy Power and Betfair, but also to offer “a deeply American flavor [of betting]. Sports at its core is a local business.”

Meanwhile, King said that for his company, he sees daily fantasy sports and sports betting as more complementary than competition.

“We know from our existing database that a lot of our [DFS] people also bet on sports,” King said. “These are people that love sports so much that they’ll play Madden, they’ll play season-long fantasy [sports]on Yahoo, and they’ll bet on sports. And for those who aren’t our users, really any sports fan knows our brand.”

DFS and sports betting — same or different?

King also dismissed the notion that FanDuel’s association with sports betting — while still lobbying in some states to permit DFS as a product that is not gambling — could be problematic.

“Like a lot of companies, we offer different products,” King said. “Some are games of skill, some are more games of chance — we look at it as a spectrum, and different regulatory regimes control each one. Those are state-by-state issues, and we’ve been able to establish great relationships at the state level to help educate [legislators]on how [daily]fantasy works, how sports betting works, and so on.”

FanDuel Group also has a partnership with Meadowlands track owner Jeff Gural to offer sports betting at his Tioga Downs racetrack in upstate New York, which Gural says could happen by the end of the year. Another deal is in place for sports betting — but members-only — at the highly-exclusive Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

Other sports betting deals in NJ

DraftKings has struck a deal with Resorts, Atlantic City’s first casino. William Hill, the British bookmaking firm, handles the action at Ocean Resort (formerly Revel) and at Monmouth Park — both of which debuted last month. Kentucky’s Churchill Downs racetrack has an agreement in place with Golden Nugget in Atlantic City. There are more to come in the next few weeks.

As occurred with U.S. casino expansion in the 1990s, companies that establish strong presences in the gambling pioneer state of New Jersey tend to have a leg up as other states come aboard.

The same can be expected in the expansion of online casino gaming, although sports betting looks to be out front of the former in terms of accelerated growth nationwide in the next 12 months.

King said that those who push back against all this new gambling are being unrealistic. “I think that people who look at [gambling legalization]as a negative don’t understand that the gambling was already happening anyway,” he said. “It’s something that people love to do, and as it becomes legal, more people will do it — and do it more frequently. Doing it the regulated way is the right way, because there is no way to put it out of business.”

And while FanDuel Group plans to offer online sports betting within New Jersey borders by the start of football season, he said that the Victory Sports Bar/FanDuel Sports Book is being expanded beyond the current 5,300 square feet because he company wants to “create an experience” that encourages bettors to head to the sportsbook — and maybe even try their luck at some horse races, too.

The number of betting windows is scheduled to go from 10 to 15 once football starts, but will that be enough? Possibly, as the New York metropolitan area is not a hotbed of college football (NJ books cannot accept bets on local college teams anyhow), and there is no deal yet between the Meadowlands track and the Giants and Jets to work out a compromise that would allow for the FanDuel Sportsbook to be open on football Sundays. Gural quipped that he told Giants co-owner John Mara recently that if he were allowed to make a sports bet at his own track, it would be on Mara’s team (which was 5o/1 on Saturday to win the Super Bowl). But if no deal is reached, Gural might consider that he can make more money on sports betting in January if the Giants — and Jets — are unable to land any home playoff games.

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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