DFS Provider PlayON Only Operates In Regulated Markets
Legal Sports Report

Fantasy Golf Tees Off Across Pond With PlayON European Tour Deal, DraftKings Launch

European PGA PlayON DFS deal
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The vertical for daily fantasy golf grew a great deal in 2015. Now at least two different DFS companies are trying to take the idea across the pond.

PlayON deal with the European Tour

A fully regulated DFS site is hoping a partnership with golf’s European Tour will help push it to prominence, as PlayON recently signed a deal with the organization.

Last month, PlayON announced a “multi-year, exclusive daily fantasy partnership” to become the Official Daily Fantasy Game of the European Tour.

The PlayON golf product works much like how DFS for golf exists in the U.S., with users picking a roster of golfers to create a fantasy team under a salary-cap format. Points are awarded for each golfer’s performance, and the users with the best-performing golfers can win cash prizes.

“We are delighted to be partnering with the European Tour to deliver our daily fantasy experience to golf fans around the world,” Killian Jones, founder and CEO of PlayON, said in a press release announcing the deal. “Daily Fantasy European Tour Games will bring added entertainment to watching live golf and we look forward to working closely with the European Tour to deliver a great daily fantasy experience to golf fans over the coming years.”

PlayON currently offers daily fantasy games in soccer, cricket, golf and basketball, with other sports due to be released over the coming months.

“We are committed to enhancing the fan experience on The European Tour and are very pleased to be partnering with PlayON to offer our fans a compelling daily fantasy challenge, aimed at increasing their engagement and enjoyment of our tournaments,” said Rufus Hack, the European Tour’s Head of Media, Digital and Strategy. “A key factor in our decision to partner with PlayON was their strong commitment to operating responsibly and only operating in regulated markets.”

Inside the PlayON-European Tour deal

The partnership with the European Tour brings two major benefits to PlayON, according to Jones: distribution and licensing of intellectual property.

How does that manifest itself?

  • PlayON appears the European Tour’s TV broadcasts, with graphics present on the European Tour’s world feed.
  • PlayON is promoted on the European Tour’s digital platforms and social media accounts, with a “daily fantasy” page in the main navigation on EuropeanTour.com.
  • PlayON gets engagement opportunities. For example European Tour golfers like Justin Rose and Thomas Bjorn and a number of other players tweeted about the partnership and the launch in the week after the deal was consummated.
  • PlayON gets “event activation, such as when it was an “official sponsor” of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in May.
  • Because of the licensing deal, PlayON can use official imagery, logos and wordmarks of the European Tour on its website and marketing channels.

The PlayON legal model

While a number of DFS sites operate in a legal gray area — including some of the U.S. market — PlayON only takes real-money customers in regulated jurisdictions, The company currently holds licenses in 3 markets:

  • The UK, under the authority of the UK Gambling Commission.
  • Ireland, under the authority of Irish Revenue.
  • Australia, under the authority of the Northern Territory Racing Commission.

Other licenses are also being pursued at present according to Jones. Of course, the above 3 jurisdictions are some of the countries where European Tour golf is most popular, so it’s a natural fit. Aside from real-money markets, PlayON has registered free-play customers from over 100 countries.

That difference between PlayON and its competitors in the DFS space on regulation is a point of emphasis for the former.

“The daily fantasy sports market in the US has experienced rapid growth over the past few years, and the market outside the US is now gathering real momentum,” Jones told Legal Sports Report. “A key difference between the two is regulation, where markets outside the US have clearly established regulatory frameworks in place.

“PlayON is very much in favor of a regulated approach to daily fantasy sports — it has been our approach from the start and we continue to see it being the right approach over the long-term.”

Daily fantasy golf itself could run afoul of the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in the U.S.

PlayON, not stopping there?

Jones told LSR that PlayON has designs on more deals with sports organizations, and is currently in discussions with a number of other sporting organizations regarding “official partnerships.” 

“A key factor in these discussions is clarity over regulation,” Jones said. “PlayON only accepts real-money customers from jurisdictions that have a clear regulatory framework in place, and within which PlayON holds a license. This approach removes all regulatory risk for PlayON’s partners and it is resonating strongly with sporting organizations at present.”  

“While this approach has meant that PlayON has been slower out of the blocks, we believe it is the right approach and one that will serve PlayON well over the long-run.”

This week PlayON announced another “multi-year, exclusive daily fantasy partnership” with the Caribbean Premier League, a Twenty20 cricket tournament beginning today. This year the CPL has a number of games in Florida, with PlayON graphics also present in the CPL TV broadcasts.

DraftKings does Euro Tour, too

DraftKings didn’t secure a relationship with the European Tour — LSR understands that both DraftKings and FanDuel were in discussions about a partnership. But DraftKings still went ahead with launching a European Tour product one week after PlayON went live its product.

Prize pools at DraftKings several weeks after launch are modest — the top two contests guarantee $25,000 each — at least by DraftKings standards. The contests are available in both the US and the UK, where DraftKings launched earlier this year.

The PGA Tour, because of legal concerns in America, has stayed out of getting into the DFS business, directly. DraftKings — if it has event attempted to — has not entered into a deal with the pro golf association.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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