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Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) reports that 2018 was a pretty good year with revenues up by 9 percent to $2.5 billion (£1.9 billion.)
The launch of US sports betting, however, drove a significant loss for the company. PPB lost $19.75 million (£15 million) on a proforma basis on its US operations last year.
The fantasy business (FanDuel’s former top focus). TVG, and the casino business created $13 million (£10 million) in EBITDA in 2018. The vertical led by FanDuel Sportsbook, though, lost $31.6 million (£24 million,) in large part because of “promotional and marketing spend in acquiring new customers.”
The US legal sports betting opportunity is generally referred to as exciting. CEO Peter Jackson stuck to the industry’s optimistic narrative in his comments on the group’s performance:
“The opening of the US online sports betting market has the potential to be the most significant development to occur within the sector since the advent of online betting.”
Jackson later added:
“Rather than announcing our plans, we have moved quickly to give ourselves the best chance to win in that market. We are confident that FanDuel’s nationally recognised sports brand, 8 million customers, our Group betting expertise, and our market access partnerships position us very well.
“Our success to date supports this view, with FanDuel achieving a 35 percent online market share in New Jersey in its first 5 months of operation, and Meadowlands becoming a marquee venue for sports betting.”
No matter how exciting the market is, plunging into a new sports betting segment is an expensive business.
Jackson said it will be 18 to 30 months post-launch until FanDuel Sportsbook becomes profitable. Its total handle on US sportsbook reached $557 million in 2018.
He couldn’t put a precise figure on how much investment the US market will require because it will depend on when and how many states introduce legal online sports betting:
“Overall sportsbook contribution: quantum of investment losses will depend on the level of market growth in New Jersey; FanDuel’s performance in New Jersey; and the timing of regulation/launch in additional states.
“Contribution from newly launched online states will remain negative while the proportion of newly acquired customers remains high (due to high levels of promotional and marketing spend in acquiring customers).”
PPB already has “over 8 million registered customers” in the US and it has operations in 46 states. It offers real money gaming in 33 of these states, mainly through its TVG horse racing subsidiary and FanDuel fantasy sports business.
Through PPB’s TV programming which reaches 45 million people, and the FanDuel DFS acquisition channel, PPB does look to have a strong platform to expand its US business.
The group now operates a diverse set of brands including FanDuel, Adjarabet, TVG, Paddy Power and Betfair. That’s enough to prompt a name change, according to Jackson:
“With a growing portfolio of brands, we plan to rename the Group as Flutter Entertainment plc. There are no plans to use this historical name for consumers, and we will seek shareholders permission for the change at our forthcoming AGM.”
In discussing the global market more generally, Jackson noted the global online betting and gaming market is growing quickly. Compound annual growth rate in the five years to 2018 came in at 11 percent.
Even with that growth, online gambling only represents 11 percent of the total market. Every 1 percent of gambling that moves online increases global online gambling revenues by $4 billion.
PPB sees this growth going to the established brands. Although regulation is often spoken of as a problem for gambling companies, in practice Jackson sees it as a benefit to the largest operators:
“Indeed, we continue to believe that such regulatory change disproportionately benefits operators with established leadership positions, making it more difficult for less established brands to achieve the necessary scale to compete.”