By Ross Kerber
BOSTON (Reuters) – Top online sports betting services reported strong consumer interest with the start of the National Football League’s new season, a key driver for the fast-growing sites.
FanDuel Group said on Monday the amount of money bet by its users online on Sunday was roughly 12 times the amount spent on the same day a year ago, when its mobile betting app had just launched.
Rival DraftKings Inc said the amount of money bet on Sunday on its sports-betting segment alone nearly doubled compared to the same day a year earlier.
In addition, traffic at both companies spiked on Sept. 5, the first NFL game day and the latest day for which figures were available, said analytics firm SimilarWeb. FanDuel had 524,416 visits on Sept 5. and DraftKings had 306,681 visits that day, in both cases around 65% higher than in prior days, the researcher said.
Neither company would release dollar figures, making exact comparisons difficult. But the trends show the importance of football, the most popular U.S. sport, as the newly-legal U.S. online sports betting market gels, said Dustin Gouker, analyst for PlayNJ.com, a blog that follows the industry.
“If you bet on sports you’re almost certainly betting on the NFL,” Gouker said.
New Jersey has emerged as a key early battleground after it won a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to legalize sports betting. Thirteen states now allow the activity through retail facilities or via websites and mobile apps, and more states are likely soon according to the American Gaming Association, a trade group.
Sports betting revenue at New Jersey’s Meadowlands facility in July was $9.1 million, up from $1.4 million a year earlier, according to the latest data from the New Jersey attorney general’s office, which oversees the industry. The figures exclude horseracing and reflect a partnership with FanDuel, a unit of Paddy Power Betfair Plc, including online users.
Meanwhile DraftKings operates a 5,000-square-foot “Sportsbook” facility at the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. Digital revenue reported by Resorts was $3.7 million in July, up from nothing a year earlier and including revenue from DraftKings online users.
Jamie Shea, head of sports book digital for DraftKings, said the growth reflect how fans have embraced the chance to put money on outcomes.
“Over time people have been finding out how much more fun it is, how much more exciting the game is to have a bet on it,” she said. The closely-held Boston company says it has 800 employees and has been discussed as an IPO candidate, a possibility it does not rule out.
FanDuel Chief Marketing Officer Mike Raffensperger said the NFL counts 100 million fans in the U.S. “There’s no week of the year we can acquire new customers like we can in the first week of the NFL season,” he said.
Shea’s company and FanDuel both face competition from established casino companies that have rolled out their own betting sites and mobile apps. Competitors include Caesars Entertainment Corp and a unit of MGM Resorts International.
But the two online firms have each capitalized on a big user base centered on fantasy sports, in which participants create virtual teams based on actual players and their real-world statistical performance. Most states allow companies to charge fees to host these games and Shea said the area remains DraftKings’ main revenue driver.
Despite controversies over player injuries and politics, football is by far the most popular U.S. spectator sport, a poll last year by Gallup Inc found. Some 37% of U.S. adults cited it as their favorite sport to watch. Next came basketball, cited by 11% of respondents as their favorite sport, and baseball at 9%.
In the current NFL season, which runs through the Super Bowl set for February 2 in Miami, 38 million American adults plan to bet on the pro league’s games according to an online poll by the American Gaming Association.
(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Alistair Bell)