Whether you’re an avid player of Daily Fantasy Sports games of skill, or you’re just a curious driver passing back-and-forth between Jersey and Philly along the Atlantic City Expressway, you’ve seen the massive black billboards dotting the bright, cloud-filled skyline: DraftKings Sportbook, the mobile sports betting app connected to AC’s Resorts Casino, opened for business in New Jersey as of Aug. 1.
While everyone has been waiting for each of their favorite Atlantic City casinos to open a design-heavy, designated salon dedicated to sports betting, Resorts swept in and began collaborating with DraftKings — licensed to offer all forms of sports wagering through its app and website, only if you’re located physically within Jersey state limits — and became the first in the Garden State to offer such online gaming.
“For the past year, Resorts and DraftKings have been intensely focused on launching the first online betting platform in New Jersey, which marks a very proud milestone for us as the leaders in Jersey’s gaming scene since 1978,” said Mark Giannantonio, President & CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel. “It was important for us to wait until the product was ready and passed the essential regulatory approvals before we announced the online sports betting platform with DraftKings.”
The Boston-based IP address/destination for those competing in single-day online games for cash and prizes — founded in 2012 by CEO Jason Robins, CRO Matt Kalish and COO Paul Liberman — also had to plan for this auspicious occasion, waiting for the legal hurdles of Supreme Court approval and new regulation. “Being the first operator in New Jersey to launch a digital sportsbook is a huge milestone for us, the culmination of 10 months of hard work,” said Kalish, who also credits the NJ regulators who drafted the first rules for a digital sportsbook product (“they’re truly leading the charge”) and Resorts for taking the first steps in the online gaming revolution. Caesars Entertainment (the operators of the sportsbooks at Bally’s and Harrah’s), The Borgata, and Ocean Resort (through William Hill Inc.) could follow in hot pursuit.
DraftKings’ sportsbook platform lead and product builder Dan Hannigan-Daley stated that as it became clearer that sports betting would be legalized in New Jersey, the company began to quickly focus its efforts to offer “a complex product … offering over 10,000 different ways to bet, every single day, across many different sports at many different times,” he said. The innovation of in-game wagering, for example — unique to regulated sports betting in the United States – allows the gambler to bet while games are in action, or according to specific elements within a game or team. “Take baseball,” said Hannigan-Daley. “You can bet by inning up until the ninth, or into extra innings or total hits by a team. It’s a pretty robust system.” Kalish went on to say that in-game wagering goes beyond the usual pregame banter (“will Tom Brady throw 312 yards today?”), by allowing players, on a real-time basis “to deal with changing odds” that are recalibrating as any game moves forward, “to continuously engage and reengage.”
Resorts’ Giannantonio was quick to note that such in-game wagering is now prolific in mature sports betting markets such as Europe. “Players love to be able to bet after the game has started. and that now accounts for over 70 percent of the handle in Europe,” he said. “When it looked like sports betting was going to become legal, Resorts believed that DraftKings would be the ideal partner to officially launch online sports betting in New Jersey. The company has great brand awareness and an impressive database of Daily Fantasy players in New Jersey, who will obviously be a key target audience for online sports betting.” Giannantonio claimed that Resorts’ end goal was always to offer sports betting on a single online platform with multi-channel outlets, whether guests are playing from across the counter at the casino, at a kiosk on-property, or on their desktop computers or mobile devices. “Furthermore, Draft Kings has fantastic expertise in platform and online service development as well as a highly proficient team of digital marketers — it was a no-brainer for us.”
Whether its baseball, hockey, golf, basketball, tennis, boxing, mixed-martial arts or — the game they’re all waiting for, football — Hannigan-Daley said his goal regarding the DraftKings app was to take the intimidation factor out of the gamble. “Because we have so many daily fantasy users, we had a willing real wagering base. In a casino, that huge board with a ton of constantly changing numbers can be intimating, probably looks like trading stocks as opposed to betting and having fun watching sports.”
The structure of the DraftKings app/online experience, then, caters to vets and newbies alike, and introduces them into the physical fun of the sport in a mobile forum, as well as the ease of wagering.
“If you like DratfKings, you probably don’t’ want to just sit on your couch,” said Kalish. “Ours are fans who want to get into the game. They love predicting, want to go deeper and be more engaged. To test their wits against a friend in a private league or among the general public. They don’t want to just watch, they want skin in the game. They want to go beyond watching a game passively while drinking at a bar. They want action.”
The King in the Casino
Matt Kalish – a one-time data analytics guy for a major credit card company – mentions that the mobile DraftKings has a 10 million-plus peeps customer base in the United States alone, and, since 2012, his site touts that “750,000 users won money in their first paid contest,” “20,000 plus public contests per day,” and “4.8 billion dollars paid out across all sports.” It might surprise you then that the mobile outfit is strongly considering having its own sports betting parlors within a casino framework. “Absolutely, we will be doing a physical sportsbook in casinos as well. That’s part of what we are doing in certain states. We want to make it as the same experience as the mobile app — make it look nice — and have it tap into our brand experiences the right way.” Having those 10 million customers and being a trusted betting brand is what they’re hoping casino gamers will remember when they see that DraftKings’ crown logo. “They want us to activate our consumer base no matter where we go,” said Kalish. Currently, there is no timeline or specific casino (Resorts AC?) that he is willing to discuss getting physical with. But Kalish promises that those announcements will come soon. “Hopefully in time for football season.”