For as long as there has been betting on sports, there has been a select group of “experts” willing to sell their information to gamblers looking for an edge.
With its newest platform, which launched last month, FansUnite is in the early stages of tapping into a network of sports bettors to “bring collaboration and transparency to an industry that we think lacks it,” said Darius Eghdami, the 28-year-old CEO and co-founder of FansUnite.
Bringing handicapping into the light
FansUnite’s genesis begins when its founders, then three young Canadian sports bettors, realized they could make more money and assume less risk by becoming professional handicappers.
That spawned CappersDelight, a simple site from which they could offer their picks for a fee.
“We made a ton of money,” Eghdami said. “But throughout that process we learned a lot about the industry and the lack of transparency in the industry. … You’re paying for access to information, and you’re generally paying for access to one source of information or predictions. And I don’t think a lack of transparency was doing sports bettors any favors, and we ourselves weren’t great at showing people that we were making money for people consistently.”
FansUnite considers itself mainly a data company, using a community of bettors (Eghdami said the site has 10,000 members) that post their picks. Anyone can post picks on just about any sport, either for fun, to track their own bets or to build a following. (Eghdami said the top user has 1,500 followers). And data is collected for each user, offering a picture of each user’s success with statistics such as a win-loss record and return on investment.
The data for the most successful bettors are placed behind a paywall, called “Pro Picks,” and can be accessed for a $50 monthly fee. (The site also derives revenue from referrals from their site to legal online sportsbooks, but that is limited to users living in legal sports betting jurisdictions, Eghdami said.)
“Instead of having one source of picks where you have to follow a certain handicapper, we want to give you access to thousands of sports bettors with a fully verified history,” he added. “You can break down their history and go through their data and find the right guy for you, to maybe give you more information to make a more data-driven decision rather than blindly trusting one handicapper that you pay for.”
A more social version of sports betting
FansUnite is part of a quietly emerging market with companies that have been testing the boundaries of applying social media principles to sports betting.
There does seem to be interest.
So far, FansUnite (which is based in Boulder, Colorado, at a startup accelerator) has raised $400,000 in two separate rounds of financing, including $250,000 from a private investor in the United Kingdom, Eghdami said. And the company is currently beginning the process of raising another $500,000.
Sites such as Favourit, an Australian company that gathers real-time betting data from its users, was seeded with $3.6 million in recent years. Peer-to-peer sports betting sites (legal in many jurisdictions) that allow users to make bets with friends, such as YouBetMe and Gamblino, have also shown promise.
But there are some barriers, too. For one, only 2 percent of social gambling users spend any money on a monthly basis, according SuperData Research. And in the case of FansUnite, it can’t act as a portal to refer users to online casinos.
Getting around the law
Eghdami hopes that with the movement to legalize sports betting in the U.S. could bear fruit by allowing users at FansUnite to one day seamlessly place a bet while allowing the site to track the data from the bet in real-time.
That could be years away, though, if it ever comes to fruition. At the moment, FanUnite is most interested in growing its community.
“The more users we get and the more predictions we get into our platform, the more powerful the crowd-sourcing engine can become and the more powerful the collaboration can become,” Eghdami said.
By tracking data from virtual bets in which no actual money exchanges hands, such a community falls within U.S. laws. And at the moment, social gaming might show the most promise because in many ways it works around the restrictive sports gambling laws in North America.