FanDuel CEO Matt King joked with MarketWatch that the Super Bowl should fall under the CDC's "essential travel" recommendations.
King, who has headed the New York-based bookmaker and daily fantasy sport since 2017, is an annual participant in the big game, but this year he decided it "doesn't make sense" to leave. Like millions of other NFL fans, King will see the Chiefs battle the Bucs on television.
In an interview with MarketWatch, King discussed how the pandemic is accelerating sports betting, FanDuel's interest in becoming a public company, and whether legal sports betting is a game changer in New York state.
Market observation: Is FanDuel doing any physical events for the Super Bowl this year?
King: It's pretty limited this year. Last year we did a number of events with players and some events with some of our partners who are down there. A number of smaller things.
Market observation: Do you expect more money for the Super Bowl this year than in previous years?
King: Yes, there will be a lot more. Of course we're in a lot more states, that's the tailwind, but even the states in which we have been active over the past two years have grown significantly this year.
See also: Here's everything you need to know about legally betting on the Super Bowl
Market observation: What are your total bet projections for the game?
King: Our business is dramatic. I'm not sure we'll post our specific projections, but it will be by far the greatest game ever recorded for us. Many orders of magnitude more than last year. The stat I can give you is that in the first 28 days of 2021 we spent $ 1 billion on sports betting. We didn't hit $ 1 billion until the fourth quarter of 2020.
Market observation: Are there certain areas of growth in your company that you see? Something like live betting, for example?
King: Live betting has been very popular since day one. I would say the big story this year is going to be our parlay product for the same game. Here you can bet on multiple things that will happen in the same game and we really are the only ones on the market to offer this. The Super Bowl is perfect for parlay betting in the same game. It allows people to say, "Here are the three guys who I think will score a touchdown." Customer acceptance of the product this year has not yet been in the charts.
See also: 10 Super Bowl Prop bets including Doink Special and Fat Man TD
Market observation: Florida, the state where the Super Bowl is located, was on the verge of legalizing sports betting in 2020, but it never happened. How closely are you watching new states trying to legalize gambling?
King: Our chief attorney once gave me good advice: "The probability of a law being passed is 50/50 until it is actually passed." Either it'll pass or it won't, and I've taken that to heart. We look at the world in such a way that we think about the total number of states that are considering sports betting, and we assume that a certain percentage of that will happen. It's just hard to predict which ones will get over the goal line. We are confident that there will be a number of states this year. We just don't know which ones.
Market observation: The four most populous states: California, Texas, New York and Florida have not yet legalized sports betting. Do you see these states as pioneers for your company?
King: We certainly see every new state as a market opportunity, and the larger the state, the greater the market opportunity. But the real change is what's already happening. Sports betting becomes part of the narrative around the sport. It's embedded in the way we talk about sport, and even in these big states it's a matter of when, not if, because people understand the size of the scope of the illegal market and the fact that it is only sensible legislation is to try this and put it out of business. I don't necessarily see them as a game changer, because in reality we're already in the middle of the game. Surely a big state will speed things up.
Market observation: Do you think the pandemic will force states to legalize sports betting faster?
King: I think that will be the case. I think this will be the case with sports betting and igaming. You have two things in front of you. One is that fiscal pressures on every single state are greater than ever. I think states will look for ways to help them get out of the tax gaps caused by the pandemic. But the other thing is that more states have passed sports betting and igaming laws and have shown that it is a win-win, common sense legislation. It enables consumers to do what they love and it generates tax revenue for the state and puts an illegal market out of business. It's a pretty easy decision.
Market observation: Are you advertising during the Super Bowl this year?
King: We won't be during the game. We didn't think it made sense to run a Super Bowl ad this year.
Market observation: Do you think the NFL would like an ad for a sportsbook during the game?
King: The NFL approves all ads for the game (laughs), so no sports betting ad will appear during the game at this time.
Market observation: FanDuel is not a public company, but if you see tremendous growth from other public betting firms like DraftKings
Do you feel jealous or do you feel like it's only good for the industry?
King: Our focus is on the fan and we focus on winning to deliver the best product and fan experience on the market. When we get customer feedback and look at the market share reports, it is clear that we are number one. And that makes us very proud. As we've seen in the last few weeks (laughs), share prices can be a bit short-lived.
See also: Mark Cuban to WallStreetBets dealer: "Thank you for changing the game – thank you for facing Wall Street."
Market observation: What about a "high tide raises all boats" mindset?
King: From the point of view of people understanding more about the industry and its addition to the sports ecosystem, that's a good thing. So whatever that does is a good thing. It's a big market too. We don't look at things as a zero-sum game. We see it as we are at the dawn of a great business game. This competition creates innovation.
Market observation: In our interview last year we discussed the idea of FanDuel as a public company. Is the IPO something you discussed with your team?
King: Our focus is only on building the best business possible. There is just so much to do to grow the business and innovate the product. We are well financed by Flutter
and we have all the resources we need. We're just trying to grow the business.
I think it will be a long time before we see a big market for election betting here.
Market observation: Are you interested in choice bets?
King: I think people are clearly finding election betting an interesting way to get involved in politics. There are many legal restrictions in the US that are not in Europe. Our focus was on providing free games for the presidential debates. We can see that there is great interest in it. I think it will be a long time before we see a big market for election betting here.
Market observation: Are you not expecting election bets in the 2024 and 2028 presidential elections?
King: I don't think this is going to be a big deal, mostly because the regulations are going to keep restricting the market and I don't see those regulations changing. But the demand is definitely there.
Market observation: Who does sports betting need to win?
King: The Super Bowl isn't about making or losing money like we discussed last year. It's about giving the fans a phenomenal experience. Other bets are related to the Chiefs. If the Chiefs win and cover the spread, we'll lose a few dollars. The same is true if it's a very high score game, which is pretty typical.
If the Chiefs win and cover the spread, we'll lose a few dollars
Market observation: What will sports betting look like in 10 years?
King: I think it's less about isolated sports betting and more about the convergence of things like sports betting and gaming in general with sports and sports media. It's safe to say that all sports rights holders are trying to find new ways to attract fans. I think you will see some great things for the next generation fan experience. You may see new ways to watch sports, a more personalized experience.
See also: Tickets to this year's Super Bowl are more expensive than they have been in over a decade
Market observation: A gamification of the actual games?
King: The ability to turn games on and off more easily based on important moments. Reduced latency in the streaming feeds. You will see some alternative broadcasters whether it is your favorite Twitch personality announcing the game or someone who may be looking at the game in a more betting-oriented way. It's an experience that you can create yourself instead of consuming the same broadcast that 20 million other people watch.