The physical gambling world represents something of a nationwide ghost town: brick-and-mortar casinos shuttered, retail sportsbooks void of traffic, and a general eeriness permeating the gaming world.
Online, however, another story unfolds: Business is carrying on, mostly for online casinos. And while established brands — such as Golden Nugget and Borgata in New Jersey — have flourished, newcomers have thrived.
That includes DraftKings and FanDuel, two companies that were solely dedicated to daily fantasy sports just a few years ago. Now, both are also legal sports betting powers and rising online casino operators. The two have seemingly been built to last and to sustain any situation.
“When you have multiple verticals like we do, it’s a big advantage,” said Johnny Avello, director of DraftKings Sportsbook. “We do have retail (sportsbook) locations, in New York and Mississippi and New Jersey and we were just about to open up one in New Hampshire and Colorado shortly.
“But we are an online company. That makes us a little different than a lot of others. We do have the casino, which is actually doing fantastic. I must say there’s been a shift from sportsbook to casino. … It’s nice to know that when one’s not doing so well, another area can pick up the slack.”
Online casinos pick up in popularity
The online casino industry — even online poker — has become more popular of late as regulated wagering has been sidelined due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many still want gambling opportunities and the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel have obliged.
Near the end of March, DraftKings saw an 8% spike in iGaming bets over a week. From March 10 on, DraftKings Casino enjoyed a 34% increase in active players.
It only makes sense for any business to have some sort of backup plan in its arsenal. Just in case some relatively unexpected situation arises, said business could push forward, following that new track.
Yet as everyone will tell you, including Avello, nobody could have predicted the coronavirus pandemic.
“You could have contingency plans and lay them out in case ‘X’ happens,” Avello said. “But nobody expected ‘Z’ to happen. When you lose (all the sports), all pertinent content that you offer and that everybody’s used to, especially surrounding some of the bigger events that were coming up … you lose all of that and you have to scramble what you’re going to offer your patrons.”
FanDuel, DraftKings catering to online casino customers
FanDuel Group, which runs FanDuel Sportsbook as well as online platforms Betfair Casino in New Jersey and FanDuel Casino in Pennsylvania, noted how it — like every other sports fan — looks forward to the return of sports.
In the meantime, FanDuel said, “We remain as committed as ever to giving our fans more ways to win. We’ve seen a jump in new casino players in NJ and PA as casino games become some of the most appealing content within our sportsbook app.”
In part, that spike in casino participation stems from brand familiarity and loyalty. Bettors who have no sports turn to other FanDuel offerings, for example.
However, FanDuel continues its quest to offer a wide range of products to best accommodate as many people as possible. In essence, like its counterpart DraftKings as well as other online gaming operators, FanDuel is built to last.
“We’re always looking to build on our offering and provide the best possible experience to FanDuel/Betfair players. We’re evaluating lots of different options for how to enhance the FanDuel Casino experience in PA. Since we launched with a limited set of games in PA, we were already working on adding more games and given the recent activity/interest in casino, we’ve accelerated that effort and plan to have new games in market in the very near future.”
Not about revenue for some operators
Not all sports are lost. Avello, for example, pointed to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where DraftKings offers markets surrounding Taiwan’s Super Basketball League.
Books have also listed lower-tier soccer, darts, and cricket. Table tennis has become quite popular, even. Some sportsbooks have expanded into esports betting, which included wagering on the likes of Counter-Strike ESL Pro League.
Sports betting, though, appeals to only a fraction of the public. Cross-selling with DFS and online casinos allow DraftKings and FanDuel to reach other demographics. Once again, both are seemingly built to last.
“Being around sports as long as I have, being in the casino industry for over 40 years, being in the sportsbook arena for 35, I know that sports is something that people lean to, migrate to, especially when things aren’t going well. It’s nice just to be able to watch it and get your mind off of things. So I’m glad that we can still offer things for people to do that.
“It’s not about the revenue right now for us. We just want to make sure those people are safe and staying on board with us, knowing that we’re there to support them. We’re all in a tough time right now, but you don’t just drop the ball. You keep plugging forward.”