DraftKings and FanDuel, two of the largest daily fantasy sports companies in America, are expanding into different types of gambling via online standalone welcome bonus casino apps.
DraftKings and FanDuel have both announced, separately, that they are launching standalone online casino apps to enable their customers to enjoy different types of real money gaming entertainment on the operators’ websites. DraftKings is rolling out its app in New Jersey and intends to expand from there to other states that allow mobile gaming. FanDuel is doing the same, with its launch state being Pennsylvania.
Both FanDuel and DraftKings have high visibility in the sports betting world, thanks to their prominence in the fantasy sports industry and, more recently, as sportsbooks in states that allow for online sports betting. Now that brand recognition is paying off. Gamers recognize and trust the brands and, observers believe, this will help both companies get a foothold in the online gaming market.
Both DraftKings and FanDuel have stated openly that they see online casino games as the next avenue of expansion. Their ability to enter the new market has been facilitated by their healthy financial situation – FanDuel was acquired by one of the UK’s biggest gambling companies, Paddy Power BetFair (now “Flutter”) in 2018 while DraftKings, which went public earlier this year, saw its stock price quadrupled in recent months.
Both DraftKings and Fanbook already operate in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey but originally, their casino offerings were included only as a tab in the operators’ sportsbook apps. Now that they are standalone products, they will be marketing their casino games to their dedicated sports fans and to a wider audience as well.
Before the launch, the operators expressed concerns that DFS customers wouldn’t necessarily be interested in non-sports products. But since the apps were launched in May, results have demonstrated that the offerings are, indeed, generating engagement and attracting new customers. FanDuel Casino brought in over $8 million in May from its New Jersey operations and DraftKings Casino pulled in $3.7 million in gross gaming revenue in Pennsylvania.
DraftKings has determined that 70% of their customers used DraftKings branding to place their first bet on a game as opposed to a white-label, third-party product. DraftKing believes that this indicates that customers are comfortable with its brand and are prepared to expand their engagement with the company even though the new product (casino games) differs from the traditional DraftKings sports product.
As DraftKings enters the world of online gaming it is planning to work on developing new games. These include games that are unique to DraftKings as well as variations on classic casino table games such as poker and roulette.
DraftKings and FanDuel have both said that they find that, when compared to casino-focused branding online platforms, their table games are more popular than slots on their stand-along apps. Fox Bet/Poker Stars has said that it sees the same trend.
Some observers speculate that the reason for this trend is that site visitors aren’t expecting to play slots at a casino which has, until now, been branded as a sports app, and that this may change as the casinos attract more casino-focused customers. FanDuel’s numbers reveal that 82% of its new casino customers want to play slots.
Analysts expect that, after launching their new standalone casino apps in NJ and Pennsylvania, DraftKings and FanDuel will position to enter additional markets. Online betting has currently been legislated in eight states including New Jersey, Illinois, Iowa, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia. California, New York and Massachusetts have legislation pending that would legislate online betting in those states.
Now that the major investment has been spent by deploying sportsbook/casino apps in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the companies can be more relaxed since any regulatory overhead and additional technology which would be needed to launch additional standalone online casino apps in other states are now minimal.
The original launch locales are serving as blueprints for other regulated markets. Michigan and West Virginia may well be the next launch sites – both legalized online gambling in 2019 but no apps are yet operating in either of those locales. Both FanDuel and DraftKings are already operational in West Virginia with multi-channel sports betting offered under the licenses of Greenbriar and Hollywood Casinos.
Michigan’s legal sports betting was set to get going in March but the coronavirus outbreak put the brakes on that effort. When the Michigan casinos reopen the FanDuel sportsbook will operate from the Motor City Casino in Detroit while the Bay Mills Resort and Casino in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will host the DraftKings sportsbook. Both Michigan and West Virginia had targeted online casino gambling to open in the first quarter of 2021 but that timeline may be accelerated due to the expected second wave of coronavirus casino shut-downs.
The future of land-based casinos and sportsbooks seems shaky. Casinos around the country are slowly re-opening but new regulations, restrictions, limitations and reluctance of many to be in close proximity to others make it clear that they won’t be able to function at the pre-pandemic level.
In some states where online gambling is legal but more circumscribed, officials are making efforts to create work-arounds so that the casinos can operate. In Iowa and Illinois, for instance, bettors must sign up in person at the land-based casino that is operating the online sportsbook.
However, BetRivers casino in Illinois was granted a concession that will allow its betting customers to sign up from home. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order that gives this limited opportunity to BetRivers customers, though it’s unclear as to how long the dispensation from on-site sign-up will be in effect. BetRivers is partnered with Rush Street Gaming which runs the casino’s digital arm.
Nevada sportsbooks have reopened to limited capacity and some land-based sportsbooks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have also announced reopening dates. Even though everyone is eying online betting, gaming companies continue to hope that their retail locations will become active quickly once again.
Sportsbooks hold a prominent position on casino floors -- even though they produce lower margin in revenue, they draw people to the casinos. Observers believe that, as major leagues restart their games and people look for the kind of comfortable viewing that the brick-and-mortar sportsbooks provide, sports fans will be enticed to return to the casino’s sportsbooks – and from there, to the other games.