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Legal Sports Report sat down with Mike Raffensperger, FanDuel Group‘s chief marketing officer, to discuss the launch of the FanDuel Sportsbook PA mobile app.
Here’s a transcript of the talk, edited for length:
Legal Sports Report: What goes into launch when you have a market that’s as large and diverse as a place like Pennsylvania?
Mike Raffensperger: We couldn’t be more excited about Pennsylvania as a marketplace. First and foremost, we look at the overall commercial opportunity. And frankly, I think everyone is pretty aware at this point of the success of New Jersey and surpassing Nevada for total sports betting turnover.
Why did that take place? Well, they got a few things right in the way that they rolled out the market with regulations, notably good, open competitive access. So, operators can partner with license holders, numerous skins, get a good competitive marketplace going.
And then free-flowing access to mobile sign-up, where they have mobile as an avenue to acquire new customers. They can do that from anywhere, as long as they’re physically located within the state.
So, first and foremost, we look at that to judge, can we mirror the success we’ve enjoyed in New Jersey? And can we help really champion and grow the marketplace in a helpful and commercially viable way?
Then secondly, we look at the population of the state. Pennsylvania’s incredibly populous … and so in that sense, we certainly look at the localities, local team preferences, we take what we know works really well in New Jersey.
That’s having a ton of focus on the customer and the customer experience, the user experience and interface of our application. How do we create the right promotion and communication to make a great and, frankly, innovative sports betting experience? And then how do we put messaging and promotions together in those local markets to sort of capitalize on the great sports fans?
LSR: What is similar and/or different between your customers in New Jersey and your anticipated customers in Pennsylvania?
MR: More similarities than differences. Hometown affinity. In New Jersey, you get a certainly a lot of spillover from the New York teams: New York Giants, New York Jets. In Pennsylvania, a ton of enthusiasm for their local heroes: Eagles, Steelers, Phillies, Flyers, 76ers.
So in that sense, a lot of similarities. Also, just the fact that it’s so geographically dense, its proximity to New York City. We’ve already seen our Meadowlands location, which is about 30 minutes outside New York City, a lot of tourism and commuter traffic, taking the opportunity to be physically present in New Jersey to have a wager and play a game.
Similarly, I think we can expect things within the Pennsylvania market, notably Philadelphia. In that sense, a tremendous amount of similarity. One difference: Where New Jersey regulations do not allow college betting on state colleges, Pennsylvania does. And, I think it goes without saying, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for Penn State and other local college teams in Pennsylvania.
LSR: You mentioned the setup that has made New Jersey the successful market, the open and competitive marketplace. A lot’s been made of the tax rate and licensing costs in Pennsylvania. Does that have any effect on your world in terms of marketing?
MR: Obviously, we have to factor in the overall cost and fail for our business … I think that we’ve gotten into a good partnership with our regulating partner to understand how we can navigate that to make a material investment in the state and help grow that marketplace.
But yes, to put a bow on it. When we look at the unit economics of investment in New Jersey versus Pennsylvania, we have to be conscious of the tax rate to make sure that we’re managing our business for the long term for the customers to have good sports betting, not just for a year or two.
LSR: Your app is the only one right now in Pennsylvania in which it’s a seamless experience with iOS. What sort of competitive advantage does that give you?
MR: That is a great opportunity to service what is the majority-share mobile operating system in the country. We put a lot of time and effort into making sure that our customers have a seamless, good customer experience whether they’re in New Jersey, or in Pennsylvania.
And there are a lot of people who commute back and forth. So having one account, one app that seamlessly works in both locations, we thought was really important. We just put a lot of time, attention and user testing into the overall user experience.
So, whereas some of our competitors have their workarounds to try to get people to be able to use their platform, it’s not very customer-friendly, not very straightforward.
LSR: Is there any way for you to quantify what you think that advantage might mean for you in Pennsylvania?
MR: I have learned not to prognosticate.
I’ll say there is a tremendous amount of optimism and enthusiasm for the level of professionalism and the level of customer experience … I would say watch this space, wait for the numbers to come out. And maybe I’ll be beating my chest then.
LSR: Feel free to let me know when that time comes. So, when we look at Pennsylvania and how you’re setting up to the market to Pennsylvania, who do you see as your core customer for FanDuel Sportsbook in Pennsylvania?
MR: It is really important to me that we are a good, approachable recreational sports wagering platform for all sports fans. That is everybody who has spent a ton of time in Vegas and knows every in and out of how sports betting works.
They were certainly a huge part of legalization, of being able to displace gray and otherwise offshore activity that doesn’t have the same consumer protection. We want to make a great robust, innovative and truly different experience. For those well-accustomed veterans, I think our app and our experience do with a great job with that.
But equally important to me are folks who have bet sports only occasionally. We put a lot of time and attention to putting education into the marketplace, helping people try in a risk-free way.
LSR: We all know that football season is a potentially lucrative time for anyone involved in sports betting. What’s the ramp-up like for football season?
MR: We went loud today on an omnichannel marketing campaign. digital advertising, notably Brian Westbrook to help us get the word out … It is literally August this week. And, right around the corner, the launch of college football season is at the end of August, September with NFL getting started.
And, so I think you can expect our marketing campaign to sustain and grow throughout the month of August, and certainly into September as we make the most of a really important moment in the sporting calendar.