FanDuel has hired former National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) chair E. Sequoyah Simermeyer as VP of strategic partnerships.
Simermeyer was appointed as chair of the federal regulatory agency by president Donald Trump in 2019, where he was confirmed by the US Senate.
As NIGC chairman, Simermeyer was charged with enforcing US federal regulations, reviewing gaming facility licences and deciding on approvals of all tribal gaming ordinances.
“I am joining the private sector for the first time, and it mattered to me to join a team where I could use my background as a former regulator, legislative staffer, and public servant to Indian Country,” said Simermeyer.
“FanDuel is the leader in mobile gaming and has helped shape the rise of the legalised and regulated marketplace in the US.
“Mobile gaming remains a very young and dynamic industry, and I’m excited to help the team build out our capacity to work within Indian Country nationally to take advantage of opportunities ahead.”
Altogether, the Cornell Law School graduate served with the NIGC for eight years, first being appointed by US secretary of interior as a commissioner in 2015.
In this capacity he was charged with approving agency budgets and promulgating federal Indian gambling regulations.
Prior to joining the NIGC, Simermeyer was deputy chief of staff to the assistant secretary of Indian affairs. In this position, he worked on an array of national policy issues.
FanDuel attempts to build bridges with Indian Country
The move has been widely understood as a bid to re-engage tribal interests, after a period which has seen tribal relations with operators hit a low ebb.
This followed a disastrous 2022 campaign in California, where the tribes and operators floated duelling online sports betting proposals that both failed.
The operator-led measure faced particular criticism for framing the ballot as an anti-homelessness initiative, which led to accusations of “deceptive” campaigning.
FanDuel has also hired San Manuel Band of Mission Indians COO Rikki Tanenbaum and former San Manuel vice president of operations Frank Sizemore as SVP and VP of strategic partnerships respectively.
DraftKings CEO Jason Robins has continued to pare down his stake in the business as the share price remains high compared to rivals.
Since the beginning of 2024, Robins has sold a total of $26.9m in DraftKings stock. This is on top of $46.6m in stock sales since August 2023.
All told, the executive has sold a total of $73.5m in shares over the past six months.
Robins now holds 3,478,812 shares of DraftKings common stock, with a value of $142m as of 8 February 2024.
Bucking the post-2021 trend of faltering shares across public gambling firms, DraftKings has continued to see its share price soar.
This contrasts sharply with some competitors in the US betting space, including Entain, which is one half of the BetMGM joint venture.
DraftKings stock currently stands at $40.80 per share, representing a 228% rise since May 2022.
However, the price still remains below the historic height achieved during the 2021 bull run, during which time DraftKings stock was available for $71.75 per share.
The operator listed on the Nasdaq in June 2019 through the Diamond Eagle special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), as opposed to a traditional IPO.
DraftKings listing success story
The number of gaming companies selecting the SPAC route has declined in recent years amid concerns over crashed post-listing share prices and dubious returns for shareholders.
However, DraftKings stands as one of the major success stories, having achieved an overall leadership role in the highly competitive US online gambling market.
Since last Friday (16 Feb) however, DraftKings stock has slid by 9.67%.
This came amid slowed Q4 revenue growth, worse-than-expected losses per share and potential regulatory concerns around the proposed $750m acquisition of Jackpocket.
On 29 January, DraftKings’ principal rival Flutter, which operates the FanDuel brand in the US, listed shares on the New York Stock Exchange.
This will provide US investors looking to invest the unfolding US sports betting boom with a second major destination for capital.
Betsson’s financial report for Q4 2023 revealed the ongoing challenge of historically low sports betting margins.
While the company reported a robust 14% revenue rise to €251.9m, a cloud of uncertainty loomed over the sportsbook division.
Sportsbook revenue witnessed a 5.2% decrease and, more concerning, a sportsbook margin of 6.2%, which represented the “lowest reading for a single quarter in the past two years,” according to Betsson AB CEO Pontus Lindwall.
Lindwall pointed to a combination of factors, including a tough comparative period due to the FIFA World Cup and favourable football outcomes for punters.
Not just a Q3 problem
This narrative of slipping margins isn’t novel. Back in Q3 2023, Betsson, alongside its industry peers, grappled with a slew of bettor-friendly sports results that ate into profits.
During that quarter, Betsson’s sportsbook margin nosedived by 12% year-on-year to 7.3%.
Lindwall pinned the blame squarely on the prevalence of favoured teams clinching victories and the avalanche of high-scoring matches as European football leagues kicked off.
The saga of fan-friendly outcomes persisted into Q4 2023 and even bled into Q1 2024, exacerbating the decline in sportsbook margins.
During the conference call, Lindwall fielded a probing question about the widening gap between top-tier teams and their less successful counterparts in major leagues, and whether this trend could potentially threaten margins on football moving forward.
Lindwall replied: “That’s a very interesting question. Almost a philosophical one. I’ve been thinking about that. You know, some teams have become so professional, and some other teams can’t really cope with that development.
“But you can still see some strong teams losing when they are not expected to. So we believe that the sports betting model will be able to adapt to any kind of development within the sports going forward.”
An October bloodbath
Another gaming executive, who recently spoke to NEXT.io on the condition of anonymity, described October as a “bloodbath” due to customer-friendly sports betting results.
He mentioned that the last three weeks of October were particularly tough for many bookies, with many favoured football teams winning across Europe’s top five leagues.
“We experience a downturn of this magnitude every three to five years,” he said.
He added that although November and December showed a slight improvement from an operator’s viewpoint, “you never fully recover from it. That’s just the way it goes.”
“This situation also leads to a snowball effect, as customers have more money in their accounts and tend to bet more.
“While in the long run, you could argue that it is positive for customer experience and retention, the reality is you never recoup all the losses because people withdraw funds. They may reinvest some, but rarely the full amount.”
A similar picture in the US
The challenge extends beyond Europe.
In Q4 2023, Flutter noted that while there was growth in US revenue, this was tempered by a decline in sportsbook net revenue margin to 7%.
This decline was attributed to customer-friendly sports outcomes and a 4.2% rise in promotional expenditure.
The unfavourable sporting results led to a £343m negative impact in the quarter, resulting in US net revenue falling nearly £150m below the Q3 guidance. Consequently, adjusted EBITDA suffered approximately a 35% negative impact.
Flutter CEO Peter Jackson said: “While sports results were very customer friendly, particularly on the NFL in November, the underlying momentum in the business remains very strong heading into 2024.”
Betsson, meanwhile, is grappling with further sportsbook challenges as it seeks to sign its first B2B client in the US. The Betsafe sportsbook is live on Colorado, but the company is yet to secure an external partner.
“We still have our B2B offering in North America, but we haven’t concluded any deals yet on the sportsbook,” Lindwall said.
“We have not left North America. I think we can say that we have put more effort into developing our B2C offering in Latin America than the B2B side in North America,” he added.
In an exclusive interview with NEXT.io, Lindwall emphasised that was the correct decision strategically when based on the Q4 2023 results.
Flutter Entertainment’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange made waves this week – but what does it mean for the industry as a whole?
To the victor go the spoils. Flutter announced this week it would be seeking a primary US listing on the NYSE “as soon as practicable”, after achieving a dominant position stateside.
With the runaway success of its FanDuel subsidiary, Flutter is now Big American Business, an ocean away from its origins as a consortium of Irish bookies in the late 1980s.
The news is symbolic of the great shifts that have riven online gambling in the last decade.
It is also the greatest sign yet of the industry’s shift westwards, as European giants look to the freshly regulated US to oil their growth engines.
In the mainstream press, it is news beyond the gambling industry, as London loses its prime position as a listing destination for companies hungry for deeper capital markets.
What should we make it of it all? NEXT.io asks four big questions about Flutter’s move to the Wall Street.
1. How will the Flutter share price fare?
Last year, the macro-environment led to depressed share prices across the board, with spill-over effects including record activist investor campaigns and increased heat on management.
Given the increased number of investors active in the US, Flutter will be hoping for an increased valuation, as detailed by Eilers & Krejcik’s Chris Grove in the New York Times.
So far this seems to be a minor effect (although it’s still early days), with the company’s £163.70 London Stock Exchange share price around 40 cents below the $208.81 NYSE price as of 31 January.
Once US institutional investors have a bit more time to get a handle on the business, we might see more divergent effects.
If correct, a consistently high valuation will prove to be an asset for the business. It will discourage acquisition attempts, enable easier equity financing, calm investors and generate positive press.
2. Will investor interest spread across the gambling industry?
US land-based giants will likely be confined to second-tier OSB operator status for the foreseeable future.
Historically, DraftKings has been the business that benefited most from the sports betting boom – with the company’s share price up 164.2% over the last year.
While active in other markets, Flutter will certainly be hoping its strong exposure to US online sports betting through FanDuel will encourage investors to treat it the same as its biggest competitor.
But the presence of another leader listed in the US could lead investors to reassess other possible betting and gaming investment opportunities.
This could lead to spill-over effects such as increased share prices for suppliers and affiliates with strong fundamentals.
One example is Bragg, which has struggled with low valuations in the recent past.
A November Bragg investor open letter addressed to CEO Matevz Mazij argued public markets had failed to correctly assess its share price, and therefore said the group should pursue an outright sale to realise shareholder value.
Public markets are often unsure what to make of gambling businesses due to perceived higher risk and regulatory burdens.
In 2013, Entain’s listing on the LSE arguably set a precedent as to the amount of grey market liability the London markets would permit.
Perhaps the Flutter NYSE listing will serve a similar purpose, working to unclog investor capital skittish about gambling.
3. How will this affect the fight for market share?
Since 2018 we have seen market entries, exits, economic shocks and a shifting regulatory environment.
However, for all the ups and downs, the FanDuel-DraftKings duopoly in the US mobile betting market has remained remarkably durable.
Now things are gearing up for another showdown, with many players prepping a renewed investment drive to prop up product quality.
This will likely prove more and more important as US consumers mature and become more promiscuous with alternative offerings.
Flutter itself highlighted the benefits of deeper capital markets, increased US visibility and better access to US talent as reasons to pursue the secondary listing.
Will this move the dial?
It remains to be seen. While no doubt the listing effects could influence things at the margin, Flutter is not short of cash to finance its investments in FanDuel.
The big question mark remains over iGaming, which has traditionally been a weak spot for the business.
It was DraftKings’ relative dominance in online casino that helped it overtake FanDuel as the overall US online gambling market leader (with FanDuel retaining its OSB lead).
No doubt we will see in future if the business can maintain its prime position in the US. However, its choice of listing will likely remain at most a tertiary factor.
4. Will others follow suit?
A successful transatlantic voyage would set a precedent for other European companies with a large US customer base.
The big one is Flutter’s traditional competitor Entain, which has suffered a languishing share price despite the relative success of its BetMGM joint venture.
Whatever the case, that Flutter is now pursuing a primary US listing should have the UK government ringing alarm bells.
“London’s role as jilted partner continues, with yet another company leaving its embrace on the promise of higher valuations and deeper pools of capital in the US,” said director of research at Edison Group Neil Shah.
“Certainly, the easing of sports betting regulation in the US, coinciding with heavier regulation in the UK, is a major factor in the scramble for US market share.
“However, that a top 20 company has chosen to depart the City, with Flutter’s secondary listing status excluding it from FTSE 100 inclusion, follows a very worrying and very public trend of listed companies losing trust in the City, which must prompt the government to turbo-charge its listing reforms.”
Flutter Entertainment will aim to move its primary listing to the US “as soon as practicable” following positive feedback from investors.
The FanDuel owner has begun its dual listing on the New York Stock Exchange, first announced in February last year.
It comes shortly after exiting the Euronext Dublin exchange, where it previously had a secondary listing.
The operator will put forward a proposal to move its primary listing to the NYSE as a special resolution at the firm’s 1 May 2024 Annual General Meeting.
Subject to shareholder approval, Flutter expects this will be put into action from Q2/Q3 2024. A primary US listing is a requirement of accessing certain important American indices.
Once this is accomplished, Flutter will retain its London Stock Exchange listing as a secondary listing.
The operator argued this will enable access to the greatest number of investors in both the UK and American markets.
The business says it will communicate further details “in due course” ahead of the AGM.
“With our NYSE listing effective today, this is a pivotal moment for the group as we make Flutter more accessible to US based investors and gain access to deeper capital markets,” said Flutter CEO Peter Jackson.
“We believe a US primary listing is the natural home for Flutter given Fanduel’s #1 position in the US, a market which we expect to contribute the largest proportion of profits in the near future.”
Why is Flutter pursuing a US listing?
In recent years, Flutter’s FanDuel online gaming brand has become one of the leaders in the highly competitive US market, and now represents a significant fraction of overall revenue.
At £1.14bn, US revenue accounted for 42.6% of the operator’s overall takings in Q4 2023.
The company said the goal of the dual listing is to unlock several long-term strategic and capital market benefits.
These include an enhanced US profile, the provision of greater liquidity in Flutter shares and the option of pursuing a primary US listing.
Flutter added it believes the move will better enable the recruitment and retention of American talent, as well as give the group access to much deeper capital markets and new US investors.
Flutter Entertainment has suspended trading on Euronext Dublin ahead of its planned listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
The FanDuel operator confirmed its shares will be delisted from the Irish stock exchange at 8am on 29 January, the same day it will dual list shares on the NYSE.
The final remaining step required to list on the US exchange is to migrate the settlement system of its shares from Euroclear Bank to the Depository Trust Company, Flutter said.
This has already been approved by shareholders at the company’s 2023 annual general meeting and is expected to complete by 6am GMT on 29 January.
Flutter shares to remain on LSE
The company previously announced that the 24 January suspension of trading on Euronext Dublin is to allow for the settlement of pending trades, as well as repositioning instructions ahead of the US listing.
Flutter shares will also remain available on the London Stock Exchange. To minimise regulatory complexities, the operator has said it will retain only two listings.
In London, the operator’s ticker symbol will continue as FLTR, but it will use the FLUT symbol for its NYSE listing.
However, Flutter has also stated that “the group may pursue a primary US listing in due course”. This comes as an increasing share of the company’s revenue originates from North America.
FanDuel, its US-facing DFS, online sports betting and iGaming brand, is ranked as the number one sports betting and number two online casino operator in the market.
In its preliminary Q4 2023 financial results, Flutter said it currently holds 43% of the country’s sports betting market, as well as a 26% iGaming market share.
The company also reported its US revenue grew £1.14bn in Q4, up 26% compared to 2022. This was driven by a 33% uptick in average monthly players to approximately 4 million, and occurred despite adverse sporting results in the quarter.
Flutter will now report its financial results using US GAAP, commencing with full-year results on 26 March 2024.
Rationale for dual listing
Since Flutter’s 2018 acquisition of FanDuel, the business has grown to be among the most successful US sports betting and iGaming operators.
This means American revenue has become an increasingly large fraction of the business’ overall takings.
In February 2023, Flutter outlined the potential strategic and capital market benefits of a dual US listing to its shareholders.
These included an enhanced US profile, better recruitment and retention of US talent, as well as the ability to tap into deeper capital markets.
The company added it also gave the business the option of pursuing a primary US listing in due course. This is one of the criteria to access some important US indices.
In March the same year, NEXT.io investigated why Flutter wanted a dual listing. One analyst said that for a tech business with a strong American audience, a US stock listing was a “damn sight more attractive than the UK.”
Flutter opted to choose the NYSE over the Nasdaq for its listing in November 2023.
RubyPlay, an innovative B2B iGaming development studio, has expanded its partnership with PokerStars following the launch of its games portfolio across the regulated markets of Spain and Romania.
The latest development in the provider’s global tie-up with the Flutter Entertainment brand comes after a successful rollout of its games that has exceeded expectations in terms of player engagement and retention.
Alongside the strong performance of existing RubyPlay titles, the studio is set to develop four bespoke titles for PokerStars.
The first, Yo Ho Ho, has seen immensely strong performance with Italian players, utilising a top-performing mechanic alongside engaging features that have garnered impressive engagement and retention rates.
PokerStars players in Spain and Romania can now reap the benefits of this highly effective partnership, with the deployment of RubyPlay’s immersive slot games being replicated across two further regulated iGaming jurisdictions.
The renewed partnership underscores RubyPlay’s commitment to expanding within regulated jurisdictions worldwide, following a period of rapid growth throughout 2023.
The company now has its sights set on entry and expansion within further markets in Europe and Latin America.
Dr. Eyal Loz, chief product officer at RubyPlay, said: “We are delighted to be expanding our partnership with PokerStars and taking our successful collaboration into Spain and Romania.
“Growth is our top priority, and we look forward to introducing our diverse slots content to new audiences hungry for entertaining games. We thank PokerStars for giving us a platform to showcase our dynamic, forward-thinking content, and look forward to further success together.”
Flutter Entertainment CEO Peter Jackson hinted the business could contemplate M&A to shore up its market position in post-regulation Brazil.
On today’s (18 January) Q4 2023 earnings call, the chief executive fielded questions from analysts about the company’s Brazilian strategy following the long-awaited regulation of the country’s gaming market.
Jackson said the business was “pleased” with the performance of its PokerStars and Betfair brands in the local market and that organic growth will play a key role in Flutter’s strategy going forward.
However, he also hinted the business could contemplate M&A to boost growth in the region.
“We’ve used M&A as a means of cementing positions on the podium and trying to achieve that goal final position.
“I think you shouldn’t be surprised at this continued push from an organic basis and also contemplate whether there are other ways of increasing our scale and in the market,” he said.
iGaming revenue on the up
The FanDuel operator saw continued gains in the iGaming segment during the quarter.
The group reported 49% year-on-year revenue growth for US iGaming, while the online casino total outside the US rose 11%.
Flutter’s US iGaming brand FanDuel Casino saw increased market share to 26%, continuing its position as the second most popular online casino site nationwide.
Jackson argued this was a consequence of the company’s long-term product strategy articulated at its 2022 Capital Markets Day.
“We said in the first year there were things that were broken that we’re going to fix,” he said.
“We said in the second year we get to product parity, and then third year we get ahead of the market. We’re in the third year – we’re going to get ahead of the market.”
Product is king
While acknowledging the historic importance of cross-sell to the company’s iGaming strategy, Jackson said a great deal of the new growth was coming from sole online casino customers attracted by the improved product.
The executive pointed to changes made to its iGaming products across branding, free-to-play mechanics, positioning and the available games as driving revenue increases.
The theme of product pushing revenue growth also extended to the company’s US online sports betting business.
CFO Paul Edgecliffe-Johnson said Flutter’s leadership on same game parlays helped push the company’s expected margins up 200 basis points to 13.5% in Q4.
Flutter commits to wide-ranging investments
Elsewhere, Jackson said that the business expects to make large scale investments in the not-too-distant future.
He said Flutter is making sure “we have the right size of infrastructure for the business that we’re going to become.”
“You can see the level of growth we’re exhibiting in the States. We don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.
“And we think it’s important to continue to invest in the infrastructure that supports the scale business that we are and indeed are becoming.”
This comes at a time of increased competitive pressure for the business. The group’s US competitor BetMGM announced in December that 2024 would be an “investment year”.
Additionally, the company is dealing with the arrival of newer competitors, including ESPN Bet, Fanatics and bet365 onto the scene, as well as its main rival DraftKings.
Due to iGaming growth, DraftKings became the number one US operator in terms of overall revenue last year, although FanDuel still has the leading sportsbook.
Jackson shrugged off the competition, arguing that the business remained in a good overall position for market leadership.
“Over the years we’ve had a lot of competitors – I think this year was very intense,” he said. “But I think the quality of our product stands us in very good stead.
“So the I think the business is in a good place. We’ve got a great product and great momentum to exit the year in the States.”
Flutter Entertainment’s UK & Ireland division has promoted Rich Hayward to the role of managing director of Betfair.
Before stepping into the MD role, Hayward served as Betfair’s UK and Ireland commercial director between August 2019 and January 2024.
His journey within Betfair began in 2008 as a commercial graduate and included stints in various departments, including marketing, commercial and operations.
Throughout the past 15 years, Hayward held several positions, including head of operational performance and head of premium, steadily working his way up the ranks of the business.
In January 2018, he assumed the role of exchange business and pricing director, and by February 2019, he transitioned to the position of integration director at Paddy Power Betfair.
In that role, he was responsible for planning and executing the integration of Georgian operator Adjarabet into the Flutter Group.
Hayward commented on his appointment in a LinkedIn post: “The Betfair dream continues. The excitement and enjoyment is as big now as it was for me on day one back in 2008.
“The culture and the team are such a privilege to be part of and every day continues to be a thrilling education.”
Today (18 January), Flutter reported 19% year-on-year growth for its UK & Ireland division and 4% growth within its international division for Q4 2023.
Elsewhere, Australia registered a 2% decline, while US revenue saw a 26% year-on-year increase to £1.14bn.
Flutter Entertainment has reported a 15% year-on-year rise in revenue to £2.67bn for Q4 2024.
The US was again Flutter’s strongest performing geography, where FanDuel is the number one market leader for sports betting with an estimated 43% gross revenue market share. It is also the number two operator for iGaming, with a 26% share.
US revenue jumped to £1.14bn in Q4, up 26% compared to the same quarter last year, driven by a 33% uptick in average monthly players to 4,032.
Gaming revenue rose by 49% as sports betting revenue rose by 21%, helped by a 53% uplift in sportsbook stakes.
Flutter said US revenue growth in Q4 was partially offset by a sportsbook net revenue margin decline of 150bps to 7%.
This was due to customer-friendly sports results during the quarter and a 4.2% increase in promotional spend.
The adverse sporting results caused a negative impact of £343m in the quarter. This saw US net revenue come in nearly £150m below guidance provided in Q3, with adjusted EBITDA negatively impacted by approximately 35% as a result.
Flutter CEO Peter Jackson said: “In the US, FanDuel consolidated its sports leadership position during the peak quarter for sporting activity, while FanDuel Casino went from strength to strength.
“While sports results were very customer friendly, particularly on the NFL in November, the underlying momentum in the business remains very strong heading into 2024.”
Outside of the US
Excluding the US, group revenue was in line with previous guidance and increased by 8% to £1.53bn.
Growth was reported in the UK & Ireland (19%) and International divisions (4%), with Australia the only territory to report declines, amid an annual downturn of 2%.
“Outside of the US, the quarter traded in line with expectations, with continued strong momentum in the UK&I supported by recent product enhancements and International growth driven by our “Consolidate and Invest” markets,” said Jackson.
The full breakdown is below:
Flutter also posted some impressive numbers for the full-year, as overall 2023 revenue climbed 25% to £9.51bn, driven by a 23% rise in sports revenue and a 29% rise in gaming revenue.
US revenue soared 41% year-on-year to £3.6bn. The full-year results reflected the Q4 pattern, with all major territories reporting impressive gains except for Australia, which dropped 3% to £1.17bn.
The full-year 2023 breakdown is below:
Regulus Partners analyst Paul Leyland said Flutter’s performance in the UK was the standout, especially when compared to competitors such as 888, which reported an 8% dip in full-year UK online revenue.
“As we anticipated on the Paddy Power Betfair merger, Flutter’s platform and operational capability is now putting distance between the market leader and rivals,” wrote Leyland.
“In this context, DraftKing’s US achievement is all the more remarkable,” he added.
US listing update
Flutter expects its additional US listing of shares to commence from 29 January 2024 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The business will now report in US dollars, starting with its full-year 2023 results, scheduled for 26 March 2024. This is also when 2024 guidance will be revealed.
“We are very excited that the addition of a US Flutter listing is now just days away,” said Jackson.
“This is a pivotal moment for the group as we make Flutter more accessible to US-based investors and gain access to deeper capital markets.
“I am looking forward to 2024 and further building on the momentum within the group to continue delivering growth,” he added.