DraftKings and FanDuel have already begun the process of becoming sportsbook operators in Nevada.
A public records request by PlayUSA found that both national sports betting, online casino and daily fantasy sports companies have applied for gaming licenses with the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Spokespersons at the Nevada Gaming Control Board termed those applications ‘pending’ and confirmed neither have been completed to allow for review and approval of the board.
Pending for quite a while, in DraftKings’ case. A Gaming Control Board Division of Investigations stamp on that application is dated March 11, 2020.
The FanDuel document was stamped “Rec’d Applicant Services” on March 25, 2021, by the same branch.
A DraftKings spokesperson re-affirmed the company’s goal of national expansion but declined comment on the Nevada application. FanDuel did not respond to requests for comment.
What the DraftKings and FanDuel applications indicate
The applications aren’t surprising given that the heads of both companies have within the past three years expressed a desire to take bets in the birthplace of the legal sports betting industry in the United States. Nevada remains an epicenter for the trade even as 32 states and jurisdictions states have legalized sports betting.
The return would be rife with symbolism for DraftKings and FanDuel, not only in adding Nevada to their portfolios, but because of how the companies closed up shop there in 2015. That year, Nevada regulators deemed daily fantasy as sports gambling and required licensure as such. Both left rather than apply and refocused resources toward sports betting in the years before it became a national possibility following the Supreme Court nullification of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018.
In 2020, DraftKings Co-founder and North American president Matt Kalish called Nevada “ground zero for sports betting,” adding “we need to be a part of that market.”
The DraftKings “Application for a Nevada Gaming License Approval by Corporation/Partnership/Limited Liability Company” was notarized in Suffolk County, Massachusetts on March 6, 2020 and filed by chief financial and compliance officer Timothy Dent, chief executive officer and co-founder Paul Liberman and Crown Gaming, Inc.
According to the application, Crown NV Gaming – which lists Liberman and Dent as executives – was in March 2020 “exploring a potential partnership with Resorts World Las Vegas … to incorporate DraftKings’ brand, technology, and compliance as RWLV creates its retail space and sportsbook offerings.”
Resorts World opened on The Strip in June of 2021 with an in-house sportsbook. DraftKings’ pursuit of an alliance with Resorts World followed a series of mergers and acquisitions that complicated DraftKings deal with Caesars as a means to enter Nevada.
The FanDuel “Application for a Nevada Gaming License Approval by Corporation/Partnership/Limited Liability Company” was endorsed by Matt King – who resigned as CEO in May – and notarized in Cook County, Illinois, on Oct. 26, 2020.
It lists “TBD” as a proposed date of opening for FanDuel Sportsbook. Both the DraftKings and FanDuel applications seek ‘distributor,’ ‘manufacturer,’ ‘information service,’ ‘finding of suitability’ and ‘participation in gaming revenue’ as the types of licenses sought.
A distributor license as defined by Nevada gaming law allows the holder to “sell, distribute or market any gambling device, machine or equipment in the State of Nevada in accordance with Regulation 14.”
A manufacturer license authorizes the holder to “manufacture, assemble or produce any device, equipment, material or machines used in gambling, except pinball machines, in the State of Nevada in accordance with Regulation 14.”
Both the DraftKings and FanDuel indicate a desire to seek a gaming license to offer craps, roulette, Twenty-one, Keno, bingo, Wheel of Fortune, Baccarat, Pai Gow, Facebook, and Sports Pool.
Per Nevada law, investigators are to issue a report on sports betting licenses to the NGCB. The report is reviewed and discussed in a public meeting before the board makes a recommendation to the NGC. That board has two weeks to discuss the matter in a public forum before making a final ruling.
DraftKings has been laying a foundation for Nevada return
DraftKings has been presaging its intentions in plain sight as its paperwork marinates.
The company announced plans in October to build its second-biggest office space in the United States, a 90,000-square-foot space to house a thousand Las Vegas employees. In 2020, it began a sponsorship relationship with the UNLV Gaming Innovation Studio.
But perhaps more importantly, in August, the company announced plans to acquire Golden Nugget Online Gaming for $1.56 billion in an all-stock acquisition. That deal would include a presence in Golden Nugget casinos, presumably like the one on E Fremont Street in Las Vegas.
Future competitors are already considering how the arrival of DraftKings would change the nature of the game in Nevada, with Circa Sports Director Matt Metcalf in October calling DraftKings’ eventual entry a “seismic” moment for Nevada. He also said he looked forward to competing with the mobile-forward brand by leveraging the home-field advantage that comes with an existing customer base and a glimmering new sportsbook around the corner from the Golden Nugget.
Tilman Fertitta, who owns 46% of Golden Nugget Online Gaming, and will join the DraftKings board, spoke of the transformative potential of the deal on an earnings call.
“Let’s be honest, they are the market leader. They are the brand,” he said of DraftKings. “There is going to be a lot of consolidation in this space. We want to be part of somebody bigger. I only wanted stock so we can ride this up with them.”
Tilman could ride it all the way to Nevada. The arrival time remains pending.