Experts: weak launch in Britain for DraftKings

BOSTON (AP) " A bid to grow daily fantasy sports overseas doesn't appear to be gaining much traction as the industry fights for survival on its home front.

Gambling analysts say DraftKings, the industry's second largest company, has struggled to break into Great Britain's well established sports betting industry since it launched to fanfare in February.

"They have had virtually no traction whatsoever," said David Copeland, CEO at SuperLobby.com, a United Kingdom-based website that tracks betting activity on DraftKings and other daily fantasy sports sites. "The casual U.K. bettor has probably never heard of DraftKings."

But Jeffrey Haas, DraftKings' London-based chief international officer, challenged that assessment shared by other analysts.

"We're getting a very favorable response," he told The Associated Press, though he declined to provide data or documents to support the claim. "I can't quantify that specifically, but from a trend perspective, it's going in the right direction for us."

Haas said "tens of thousands" of new U.K. players have already signed up and the Boston-based company remains on track to meet its target of enrolling about 100,000 new players in its first year.

DraftKings' U.K. offerings are primarily focused on soccer, but players also have access to NBA, NFL, NHL and other sports competitions.

Like other licensed gambling companies, DraftKings is required to file regular reports accounting revenue, bets and other information to the gambling regulators, but those filings aren't public.

Analysts suggest a number of factors are contributing to what they see as the company's lackluster performance overseas.

Chris Grove, a Las Vegas-based gambling industry analyst, said the legal debate over daily fantasy sports in the U.S. has tied up financial resources and prevented DraftKings from a major advertising or marketing blitz in the U.K., as it did to great effect in the U.S.

That, he said, puts DraftKings at a disadvantage to deep-pocketed, U.K. sports betting companies like Ladbrokes, Bet365 or Paddy Power Betfair.

A majority of U.S. states are weighing legislation to regulate or ban the industry, which some consider illegal sports betting. Attorneys general in Illinois, Texas and other states have ordered the individual companies to cease operations outright.

Haas says DraftKings' marketing efforts are largely focused on securing partnerships with popular U.K. soccer clubs, including Arsenal and Liverpool, in order to build "authenticity and credibility" in the competitive gambling market. The company also has a promotional agreement with one of London's largest newspapers, The Daily Telegraph.

Other daily fantasy sports companies operating in the U.K. note that the format of the contests " where players pick teams of real life athletes to compete in online contests for cash prizes " is still largely unfamiliar to bettors overseas.

"In Europe, they will need to work on convincing football fans that what they have to offer toward playing fantasy football is very different and a lot more spectacular than what they are already familiar with," Valery Bollier, co-founder of Malta-based Oulala, said of DraftKings. "We share this challenge."

Haas says the company remains committed to growing its U.K. presence and that the "big test" will be August's start of the massively popular English Premier League.

Rival daily fantasy sports operator FanDuel " the larger of the two companies " has also announced plans to enter the U.K. in time for the season's start, a move Haas says doesn't threaten DraftKings.

"All the competition rushing to the U.K. market is good for us," he said. "A rising tide lifts all ships, if you will."

FanDuel spokeswoman Emily Bass said this week the company's U.K. product is still in development and will be "custom-tailored" to the U.K. audience, with a "different look and feel" than what it currently offers in the U.S. She declined to elaborate.

Analysts aren't convinced FanDuel's entry will move the needle much for daily fantasy sports in the U.K.

"I don't think they will do any better or worse," Copeland said. "The U.K. eagerly awaits a company that has actually figured out how a U.K. betting customer behaves."

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Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/philip-marcelo

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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