The news came via the DraftKings UK Twitter account.
Soon after, DraftKings sent out a press release about the launch. Chief International Officer Jeffrey Haas had this to say upon the launch:
“There is a massive appetite for daily fantasy sports in the UK. They are a nation of avid and knowledgeable sports fans with a well-established network of players. Daily fantasy sports is an evolution of the much loved season-long tournaments for a time-constrained generation that want instant bragging rights. Quick, fun and skilled, it adds another layer of entertainment to the matchday ritual.”
DraftKings first indicated its intent to enter the UK market when it applied for a gaming license last year.
Currently, DraftKings UK is only available via app in the UK — both iOS and Android — but not via the web. A web product apparently is still in development.
That appears to be the case. The press release indicates that DraftKings will provide “healthy competition between players in North America and the UK.”
During the initial run-up to a planned October launch, CEO Jason Robins had indicated liquidity would be shared across borders.
Right now, UK players can take part in contests involving all the sports found on DraftKings’ platform: Premier League, UEFA Champions League, NBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Soccer, UFC, golf, NASCAR and eSports.
Anecdotally from players in the UK, it appears that PayPal is the only option. Players cannot currently fund their accounts with credit cards or debit cards.
While many had always expected that daily fantasy sports would try to export the product beyond North America, that attempt hasn’t been made in earnest until now.
Mondogoal, a soccer-only DFS site, has been operating in the UK for more than a year. FanDuel has applied for a UK license, put that application is still pending.
How did we get to today’s launch?
DraftKings had been setting the stage for its UK launch with sponsorship deals.
The first one came in October, when DraftKings came to an agreement with the NFL to sponsor its International Series. It certainly appears that deal was meant to coincide with a UK launch, in retrospect.
Early in February, DraftKings started announcing deals with English Premier League teams — including Arsenal and Liverpool.
— DraftKings (@DraftKings) February 4, 2016
The exact terms of all of these deals is unknown. The club deals were classified as “long-term” or a “three-year” agreement.
This is one of the biggest question marks as DraftKings goes live. Some have been and are still bullish on the potential for DFS in the UK and Europe.
And while fantasy sports exists in the UK, it does not come from the same starting point as the U.S.; and the idea of DFS is still in its infancy across the pond.
The unanswered question is how much appetite there will be for paid-entry fantasy sports when sports betting is already ubiquitous in the country. DraftKings is obviously betting there is large and possibly complementary market for DFS that is untapped.
DraftKings, at least, has its eyes on more than just the UK. In announcing its London office last year, a press release from DraftKings said the following:
DraftKings expects to be operational in the UK in the fourth quarter, with launches in additional markets, including Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, planned for 2016.
Robins has also noted in the past that DraftKings has designs on Australia. The aforementioned Mondogoal opened a platform in Italy just last month.
How much expansion DraftKings — or anyone in the DFS market — can do in the current environment is an unknown variable. Much of its focus — and a great deal of money — has been earmarked for dealing with legal and regulatory concerns in the U.S.
But clearly the need for DraftKings to expand — even in the uncertainty that surrounds the industry — is part of the calculus. In reality, the UK offers a legal certainty that DFS does not have in the U.S., although there is far more uncertainty about exactly what the market for DFS is in the UK.
While DraftKings will be using a gambling license to offer contests in the UK, it holds no gaming licenses in the U.S., and may never have to.
There are an increasing number of pieces of legislation being considered in statehouses across the U.S. — more than a third of all states have active DFS bills.
Almost none of those, however, seek to treat DFS exactly like regulated gambling. Most bills would exclude daily fantasy contests from gambling law, while setting up basic consumer protections that fall short of what takes place for land-based or internet wagering.
Last year, Nevada declared that DFS constituted gambling under state law and required a license to operate in the state, prompting all operators to leave.
DraftKings’ UK gaming license is probably not widely known by lawmakers, who are still trying to wrap their minds around the DFS industry. Yes, the UK’s gaming laws are simply different than what exists in the U.S., but nonetheless it will be interesting to see if news of DraftKings’ UK gambling license begins to seep into legislative discussions.
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