FanDuel knew a lot of customers would be drawn to its Pennsylvania sportsbook site in the week prior to the Super Bowl.
It also knew, based on experience in New Jersey, that a lot of those sports bettors have interest in playing online table games, especially blackjack.
So even though it didn’t have a desktop casino version ready for online play, even though it had a very limited menu of games overall compared its New Jersey version or Pennsylvania counterparts, it launched its iCasino by phone/tablet app on Jan. 24.
And it proved a smashing success, netting far more from table games revenue in eight days than any of its Pennsylvania competitors did during the entire month of January. Among $2.1 million in overall revenue, FanDuel earned $1.7 million from blackjack and roulette.
It was a testament to FanDuel’s strong brand, which takes fully half of all of the sports bets placed online in the state, as well as awareness of its customers’ interests.
FanDuel iCasino’s balance differs from most
Jesse Chemtob, the company’s vice president/manager for casino, said many FanDuel sports bettors had prior experience betting through offshore sites before the activity became newly legal in the U.S., and it was common for them to have casino game options on those sites. That is also the case with FanDuel’s New Jersey customers using its Betfair site.
“We’re definitely excited about the results so far in Pennsylvania. Given the experience in New Jersey, we knew there was an appetite among FanDuel customers to play casino games,” Chemtob told Penn Bets.
“We knew going in that most of the sportsbook players would be interested in playing table games, just based on what we’ve seen in New Jersey to date.”
Most iCasinos make far more revenue from slots than table games. The Pennsylvania market leader in January, the PlaySugarHouse site of Rivers Casino Philadelphia that took in $3.5 million in revenue, earned more than twice as much from slots as tables. Hollywood Casino’s online site netted eight times as much from slots as tables.
But FanDuel, which operates in Pennsylvania through the Valley Forge Casino Resort, made $1.7 million from its five table games (two blackjack, three roulette) compared to $375,442 generated by its 12 slots options. FanDuel gets an extra benefit from that type of balance, as only 16% of table games revenue is taxed by the state, far lower than the 54% for slots.
The one other iCasino getting more table than slots play is the PokerStars site of Mount Airy Casino Resort. The bulk of its revenue comes from online poker ($2.2 million in January) but it also derives more from table games ($732,950 in January) than slots ($589,879) even though it offers 53 slots. Presumably, that is due to poker players having far more interest in a strategy game like blackjack or PokerStars’ 10 video poker options — the most in the state — than in trying a random slots spin.
Sports bettors like the strategy of blackjack
Chemtob said FanDuel sports bettors are favoring blackjack over roulette, and both over the slots menu.
“Based on what we were seeing in New Jersey, there’s definitely a skew toward table games among the sportsbook players,” he said. “I think it really has to do with the demographics of sportsbook customers, skewing toward males. Judging from the casino business, males tend to skew more toward table games than females, who play slots.”
FanDuel’s 12 slots options are by far the fewest to be found on any of the eight Pennsylvania online sites, with Parx Casino offering the most with 88 and BetAmerica the fewest other than FanDuel with 47.
But FanDuel’s two blackjack options — a single-hand version and the three-hand Blackjack Classic version — are as much as any competitor offers, and it also allows play for as little as 10 cents a hand, which is not possible everywhere.
Chemtob said the site will only get better for players in the future, with desktop capability to be added plus more slots. There will also be a video poker offering, as most Pennsylvania competitors have at least one such game and they hold more appeal than slots spins for sports bettors. Chemtob had no timeline to offer, however, for any of those additions.
While the desktop alternative could only boost play, its absence is hardly crippling, in that FanDuel says more sports bettors use its app to wager than do so online. The company would not provide any percentage figures about that, however, just as for proprietary reasons, it does not disclose how many Pennsylvania customers it has signed up.
That data base of existing customers is huge, however, based on its dominance of the sports betting market and its long-running success as a fantasy sports leader alongside DraftKings, which does not have casino games to parlay with its Pennsylvania sportsbook.
Will the site thrive without Super Bowl’s help?
The one unknown, Chemtob said, is just how much of the success with late January revenue was attributable to the Super Bowl’s role in drawing an unusually high number of bettors to the site. It will take a full month of activity in February to better gauge players’ interest, he said while declining to divulge any partial month data.
He said such figures should be reported publicly first by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The board’s report for February will not be released until mid-March.
“We’re definitely happy with the activity, and we’re really just looking to put a complementary product in front of our FanDuel players in Pennsylvania,” Chemtob said. “We’re encouraged by the results so far and just looking forward to continuing to grow the business and meet the demands.”