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FanDuel Sportsboook was the fourth option for online betting in the state, joining the market a month after DraftKings Sportsbook opened it. The online/mobile product acts as a complement to the FanDuel-branded retail sportsbook at The Meadowlands.FanDuel’s web-based, Android and iOS platforms appeared on Saturday, serving up NJ sports betting to computers and smartphones throughout the state. By regulation, access is initially limited to a small group of customers during a five-day soft launch.
Also on Saturday, William Hill went live with its sports betting app in the state. William Hill already provided sports betting services for the retail operations at both Monmouth Park and Ocean Resort Casino.
At a glance, FanDuel Sportsbook is a polished and market-ready product that should have no problem competing in the space.
FanDuel Group created the platform, first with its own team before borrowing on the resources of new owner Paddy Power Betfair and then using the technology of international gaming giant IGT. The large European bookmaker acquired the company in a nine-figure transaction this summer. The group likely could have rushed its app to market sooner, but speed wasn’t the primary goal.
Head of Product Nik Bonaddio told Legal Sports Report that his team didn’t want to simply ‘slap a logo’ on an off-the-shelf platform. “We were never going to do that,” he said. “That’s not in our DNA … we really wanted to make this a much more native experience.”
The attention to detail shows, with the platform mimicking the look and feel of the FanDuel DFS client. Both use the same blue/white color palette, navigation structure and overall styling.
Although FanDuel has a lot of control, Bonaddio repeatedly stressed the benefits of operating under PPB’s umbrella.
“We’re partnered with one of the most respected brands in Europe, if not the most respected. That gives us a lot of operational [advantages] — whether its efficient pricing, whether it’s the breadth of markets, it gives us more credibility in the space.”
All of these things are important, but how does the product itself stack up?
Like their respective daily fantasy sports products, the sports betting platforms from DraftKings and FanDuel share plenty of features.
Starting from the top, both use a customized, rotating carousel to display featured bets. These might be markets that the operator wants to promote, those with the highest volume, or those suited to an individual’s DFS and betting habits. Both will allow customers to share funds across products, though the feature is not available on FanDuel SportsBook at launch. Both allow bets as small as $0.10.
They both offer a comprehensive selection of props and in-play bets, too. FanDuel Sportsbook appears to be slightly more granular on the props side, while DraftKings Sportsbook offers deeper in-play options. Both book action on every point in a tennis match, for example, but only DraftKings offers pitch-by-pitch baseball betting.
The “cash out” feature included in DraftKings Sportsbook will be incorporated into the FanDuel Sportbook platform going forward, too, though it is not yet live. The system essentially turns every bet into an in-play bet, allowing customers to collect an adjusted payout before the result is decided.
Similarities aside, the two products diverge in some noteworthy ways.
Live-scoring visualizations embedded into the desktop platform represent the shiniest FanDuel-exclusive feature. As data technology has grown more robust, these gamecasts have become a legitimate way to “watch” a game without actually watching the game. Soccer visualizations, for example, draw a line for every pass in real time.
FanDuel is also taking a more conservative approach to the sports and contests it books. Remember when DraftKings said it was eager to offer things like competitive eating on its sportsbook? Out of an abundance of caution, FanDuel will distance itself from those types of markets.
“If there’s even any chance of someone thinking an event might be fixed,” Bonaddio said, “we’re probably going to stay away from it. We’ll sacrifice some volume to ensure the consumer protections are there.”
This abstinence might even extend to some mainstream sports. The lower divisions of professional tennis, for example, are rife with corruption, making them potential stay-away material.
You won’t find esports, either. FanDuel Sportsbook may offer the market at some point, but Bonaddio said the group is taking a wait-and-see approach with esports betting. “That audience trends overwhelmingly under 18,” he cautioned. “Call it a hard lesson we learned in 2015, but consumer trust and protection is everything.”
You will find teasers, though, which allow bettors to buy a looser line for a reduced payout. These bets are popular with casual gamblers, and DraftKings Sportsbook doesn’t yet offer them.
Another notable difference: FanDuel Sportsbook lines are visible outside of New Jersey. DraftKings Sportsbook shields them behind the geofence, but FanDuel lets non-NJ customers do everything on the platform except bet.
How do those lines look, though?
It should be noted that folks were initially unhappy with FanDuel’s retail pricing at The Meadowlands. Lines on opening weekend were borderline insulting, and a couple of logistical hiccups compounded the criticism.
Bonaddio was unafraid to address the situation, though he chose his words carefully:
“The false starts we had at Meadowlands, frankly, they were a little bit embarrassing for us. That wasn’t necessarily due to any technical issues. But when you’re starting in a new space, there can be some miscommunications. We didn’t intentionally set crappy lines.”
He went on to say that FanDuel Sportsbook plans to be “extremely competitive” in NJ, though it will be hard to compete with offshore markets in the short term. Once again, the PPB backing could give FanDuel some advantages.
“Paddy Power has a world-class trading team behind it. If you look at the margins that Paddy Power has, the revenue they do on a lesser scale means that their trading department is as good as it gets. All of this runs off the same platforms that Paddy Power itself runs off of. You will see us having, if not the most efficient lines, among them.”
Prices at opening look to be very strong for NJ, including NFL lines at -110 and MLB lines generally between 15 and 25 cents. According to Bonaddio, interest will partially dictate FanDuel’s margins going forward.
“We can be a lot more efficient around a higher-volume [game],” he said.
In addition to the eight retail sportsbooks, punters in NJ now have five options for betting from their couch:
Given the emerging choices, it’s important for bettors to shop around for the sportsbook that suits their individual needs. Each operator has its own approach to pricing, so lines will vary from one to the next.
For serious, high-volume bettors, the right sportsbook will almost always be the one that deals the tightest numbers. Those who make their living from betting on sports demand the sharpest lines and the narrowest margins for operators. A few tenths of a percentage point can make or break their long-term livelihood.
That being said, the sharpest sportsbook isn’t the right sportsbook for every bettor, either.
Many new and casual bettors will be less concerned with the difference between -110 and -115 and more concerned with the experience they’re getting. There’s something to be said for betting and fantasy sports-ing with the same account, and many DFS customers will stay on-platform by default.
FanDuel’s efforts to cater to the casual bettor are evident, meshing with the group’s overall strategy for sports gaming. A number of its new DFS features were designed with the same audience in mind.
Is this the right recipe to capitalize on sports betting expansion in the US? We’re about to find out.
The FanDuel Sportsbook launch was expected, but William Hill snuck its app onto the market right around the same time. An e-mail to customers offered early access to a small group during this soft-launch period.
At the time of writing, the NJ product is available on Android only. William Hill’s existing Nevada sports betting product added an “NV” to its title earlier in the week, the first indication that this launch might be imminent. Expect the iOS app to follow soon.
William Hill has been especially busy on the retail side, operating sportsbooks in every state with legal sports betting. Nowadays, though, a competitive mobile platform is all but mandatory for providers who intend to keep pace in the market.