Amaya apparently changed its tune in regards to daily fantasy sports by acquiring Victiv and rebranding it as StarsDraft, seemingly backtracking on statements from CEO David Baazov.
In March, during Amaya’s earnings call covering the fourth quarter of 2014, Baazov had this to say upon announcing that his company would be getting into the daily fantasy sports industry via PokerStars:
“Nobody’s software that we’ve seen can currently support our volume that we would have if we launched fantasy sports.”
At the same time, Baazov said Amaya would be “pursuing parallel tracks of internal development and strategic acquisition.”
So what, if anything, changed for Amaya in picking Victiv as its DFS platform?
Victiv’s software actually can support the volume?
It’s not clear how much research Amaya actually did into DFS sites before Baazov’s comments this spring.
But, upon examining platforms — and particularly Victiv’s — Amaya may have simply come to the conclusion that the scalability of Victiv’s software was adequate, or that it could be scaled easily to a higher volume later on.
Baazov said Amaya looked “at approximately 12 different companies” in determining what it wanted to do moving forward on the DFS front. It’s certainly possible, upon doing its due diligence, that Amaya simply realized that Victiv’s software was better than it had thought previously.
It might also signal that Victiv’s platform meshes well with the PokerStars 7 client — Victiv CEO Matthew Primeaux told Legal Sports Report that integration of the software was likely by NFL season, which begins in less than a month.
Volume isn’t an issue in Year 1?
On the flipside of the volume and scalabilty issue, Amaya apparently does not see huge volume being an issue in the early stages of Victiv’s transition to StarsDraft.
Baazov said this in Thursday’s earnings call announcing the Victiv acquisition:
“I’d also emphasize that this is not a category in which we will be doing any significant investment in, as they first start cross-selling and leveraging the 1 in 10 U.S. adults we have in the database. And I think the market still has to mature more, it has to appreciate to a size where we would be willing to make a significant investment.”
There is likely to be an uptick in traffic at Victiv/StarsDraft for NFL season, but perhaps not to the point that the platform couldn’t handle the load. More likely, this is a soft launch for PokerStars, as it prepares for 2016 and beyond. And StarsDraft seems likely to leverage PokerStars’ gaming licenses in jurisdictions around the world to offer fantasy sports outside of the U.S.
Having someone who understands PokerStars may have been key
Primeaux comes from the online poker world — he was an executive at PokerStrategy.com. As such, he would have been in tune with the iGaming industry and PokerStars’ platform and marketing strategies.
Clearly, not everyone in the DFS industry (outside of DraftKings) could bring that level of expertise and familiarity with PokerStars. Baazov termed the Victiv acquisition as an “acqui-hire,” meaning the current leadership and staff is being left in charge of the platform. It’s certainly feasible that Amaya simply valued the personnel at Victiv above everything else.
We also learned today that DraftKings hired former bwin.party head of poker Jeffrey Haas to lead its efforts in the U.K. after receiving a gaming license there. In the suddenly shifting world of DFS in Europe, it appears to be shaping up like a poker-centric thinking could be shaping the market.