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FanDuel Welcomes Underdog Role In Massachusetts; Nixes Retail Book

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 8 mins

FanDuel Welcomes Underdog Role In Massachusetts; Nixes Retail Book

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FanDuel is one of six mobile sportsbooks set to launch when online Massachusetts sports betting goes live on Friday. The company, operated by Ireland-based Flutter (with U.S. headquarters in New York), is the largest mobile operator in the United States in terms of handle and market share in the regulated betting space. Massachusetts will be its 19th state. 

But FanDuel Massachusetts enters the Bay State with a marked disadvantage. Of the six mobile betting apps set to go live at 10 a.m., FanDuel is rare in that it has no genetic or betting ties to the Commonwealth. It is one of the road teams. 

Barstool Sports and DraftKings were founded in Massachusetts. Barstool began in 2002 as a betting newspaper started by David Portnoy, a Saugus native. DraftKings was born in a Watertown bedroom 10 years ago as a fantasy sports entity and has had signage at Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, and TD Garden for years. 

Barstool boasts a retail book at Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, Massachusetts. Both are Penn Interactive properties. BetMGM has a branded sportsbook inside MGM Springfield and will have its logo on Fenway Park's Green Monster this season. The WynnBET retail book at Encore Boston Harbor has billed itself as “Boston’s Sportsbook.”

RELATED: Six Betting Apps Set To Launch In Massachusetts Friday

FanDuel Online General Manager Karol Corcoran told Bookies.com Tuesday that his company is optimistic and upbeat about its Massachusetts mobile launch and future in the state. But FanDuel has opted out of pursuing a retail sportsbook in the Bay State after considering its options. Instead, it's mobile only and it will be one of the Massachusetts betting apps to launch on Friday.

“We reviewed several interesting opportunities, but when we holistically didn’t find a good fit considering the locations available, the logistics of a retail launch, and the timing of online go-live. As a result, we decided not to pursue a retail presence at this point,” Corcoran told Bookies.

State law limits retail books to either casinos or parimutuel license holders. Currently, Suffolk Downs has yet to partner with either a retail or mobile betting operator despite being eligible to apply for a Category 2 betting license. Caesars has entered into a deal to open a 38,000-square-foot retail sportsbook at the former Raynham Park. 

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Experience, Size Gives FanDuel An Edge, GM Says

FanDuel bashed heads with DraftKings throughout the last decade during the Fantasy Sports Gold Rush. You should expect plenty of Massachusetts sportsbook promo codes from all the operators throughout March. Their TV and radio ads remain ubiquitous, especially in newer sports betting markets like Massachusetts. 

Monday, FanDuel announced a partnership with NESN for its Red Sox and Bruins gameday telecasts and an expended presence on NESN's betting website. There's already a FanDuel Massachusetts promo code that delivers $100 in bonus bets for new customers ahead of launch day.

FanDuel sees its experience as an edge as the legal sports betting learning curve continues to steepen. “We've been doing this a while. I think with each time we enter a state, we get a little bit better, and we improve our offering and proposition to customers,” Corcoran added. 

DraftKings is already pushing its Bay State edge. Co-founder and CEO Jason Robins called his site "the hometown sportsbook for customers in the Commonwealth." In a video, Portnoy said Bartstool is "still a Boston company. Even still now, I'd say half the people who work for us have Boston roots." 

Foreign ownership is not new when it comes to tech-based companies in Massachusetts. But having a general manager who is both a Yankees fan and a Bills fan? Now, that might be a problem. 

Q&A With FanDuel Online GM Karol Corcoran

FanDuel Welcomes Underdog Role In Massachusetts; Nixes Retail Book 1

Here are more excerpts from our interview with Corcoran. Some questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Bookies: What will be different about FanDuel in Massachusetts versus other states?

Corcoran: The offering and the promotions will be tailored to the sports-mad Massachusetts customer. We're fortunate that we're launching in March. The Celtics and the Bruins are playing almost every night and both are about to be on a playoff run, hopefully. One of the reasons why FanDuel is America's number one sportsbook is because our product is one of the best in market, and we will bring that obviously to Massachusetts. We make it's easy for new customers to sign up, create an account, and find a bet that is interesting for them.

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Bookies: How is FanDuel going to break through when competing against Barstool and DraftKings on their home turf, not to mention MGM and WynnBET that already have free-standing retail properties?

Corcoran: It's a great question. It's something that we're talking a lot about in the office. And credit to those operators, they're going to bring their “A” game to Massachusetts, and we look forward to competing with them. What gives us confidence is our performance in recently launched states such as Ohio and Maryland, where we've taken a leadership position. We believe we've taken that leadership position because what we're presenting the customers is strong and market-leading. So yes, DraftKings and Barstool probably have an awareness advantage as employees, friends, employees, investors. Boston is a tight community. People know of and are proud of DraftKings, and rightly so. But we back ourselves as America's number one, we are the most popular sportsbook. And I think when customers in Massachusetts try our offering, they'll like what they see. And that's all we can do.”

Bookies: FanDuel has former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski as spokesman. It just announced a partnership with NESN on its Red Sox and Bruins broadcasts. How has that helped? 

Corcoran: Gronk was almost America's most famous kicker. The “Kick of Destiny” campaign and our relationship with Gronk has really propelled our brand to cut through. And we hope that Gronk will resonate with the people of Massachusetts. He is a hero for the Patriots fans and rightly so. And we think, obviously, Bill Simmons, too, is a proud Bostonian. His recommendation of FanDuel as a really strong sports betting app will hopefully cut through.

Bookies: Gronkowski missed his kick wide left during the Super Bowl. What happened?

Corcoran: It's very windy in the desert is what happened. He was so frustrated. That day in practice he went eight for eight. But these things happen. Live TV is difficult. But we're proud of that campaign. It was great that it extended through January, which is really important. The media of the sport rightly is fixated on the Super Bowl. For us as a business, January is even more important. Because the playoffs and the customers we acquire and activate in January are proved to be stickier and more valuable. For that campaign to be building to a crescendo in February was powerful.

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Bookies: How was the entry into Massachusetts compared to other states?

Corcoran: Credit the regulators in Massachusetts. We've moved at pace and that's been great and there's been good communication between the operators and the regulators. And that's not something we take for granted, we're grateful for. It's not something we've always seen in other states. There’s been clarity on the time of year that launch was expected. That's also helpful for operators so we can plan out how we get the tech ready and how we plan our proposition.

Bookies: Where will Massachusetts be a year from now in terms of handle vs. other states? 

Corcoran: It's going to be among the top few states. Boston is a sports-focused city. There are really strong franchises. It's a wealthy state. The lottery is popular. Sports betting is legal in bordering states so that we know that there's pent-up demand there. I expect Massachusetts to be one of the top five states this time next year.

Bookies: How does FanDuel balance responsible gaming with building and sustaining its place in the marketplace?

Corcoran: One thing that struck us in the readiness meetings with the Massachusetts regulators was the importance they placed on responsible gaming. And as an operator, we welcome that. Responsible gaming is crucial for all of us to build that sustainable business. And this is not a sustainable business if we don't take responsible gaming very seriously.

Bookies: Yankees or Mets?

Corcoran: I live in Westchester, which is just by the Bronx. We're a Yankees family now. I moved here four years ago from Scotland. I got to enjoy baseball fairly quickly. I like that it's always on, that I don't necessarily have to pay attention all the time and enjoy it as a day out with the kids. Yankee Stadium is a 50-minute drive from our house. So as much as maybe it's unacceptable (in Massachusetts) to cheer for the Yankees, it's a lifestyle choice that's fun for the kids. I've grown up with sporting franchises that have never been successful like the Gaelic football team in Ireland. The kids maybe deserve a pass on this one.

Bookies: Giants or Jets?

Corcoran: We're Bills fans. When we first arrived, my wife bought me tickets without realizing where Buffalo was. We all drove the six hours to Buffalo. And after that we kind of had to become Buffalo fans. But we obviously have a soft spot for the Giants, too.

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About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.