DraftKings Launches in United Kingdom

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On Friday, February 5th, sports fans in the United Kingdom joined those in the United States and Canada in having access to daily fantasy sports (DFS) leader DraftKings.

DraftKings originally applied for a gambling license back in June 2015 and was awarded the license in August. At the time, the company said that it anticipated a Q4 2015 launch, though that was obviously delayed. It also announced its intentions to expand into Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific in 2016.

DraftKings UK is largely the same as the site with which daily fantasy players are familiar in North America, but there will be a much greater emphasis on soccer, for obvious reasons. Speaking to WIRED, DraftKings chief international offer (CIO) Jeffrey Haas, who was tabbed as the man to head up the site’s international expansion, “We’re under no illusion that our top three sports here won’t be anything else than football, football and football.”

If you weren’t sure, “football” means “soccer” in this case.

As such, DraftKings recently expanded its scoring system for soccer, adding sixteen new points statistics to the old goal, assist, and save.

“It encourages players to follow along for the whole game, because even clean sheets at the end of the match are relevant when you have individual players in contest,” Haas said.

Daily fantasy sports, for as much fun as it is for many, has clearly come under fire in the United States, both on the legal front and the image front. DraftKings and rival FanDuel developed an image problem early in the NFL season as people, particularly those who watched sports on television, became sick of the onslaught of advertisements from the two companies. For several months, DraftKings and FanDuel spent more money on television commercials than nearly any other company, including such giants as GEICO and AT&T.

Brits need not fear bleeding from the eyes, though. Haas told the Boston Herald that there are no plans to go as wild with commercials in the UK as they did in the United States (and those died down considerably, though that was likely because the DFS sites needed the money for legal bills).

“Our launch is about educating consumers, but it’s also about educating ourselves about the marketplace,” Haas said. “We need to learn a little bit about consumer behaviors, what products they like, what games they like, all the different variables about how our business will perform in the UK.”

While The UK is the UK and the U.S. is the U.S., DraftKings’ launch across the pond is interesting when viewing it from the States in that DraftKings had to apply for a gambling license. This would imply that DraftKings is at the very least ok with DFS being called gambling, if not outright admitting it. In meantime, several state Attorneys General have declared DFS illegal gambling and DraftKings’ main defense is that DFS is not, in fact, gambling, but rather a game of skill. While the licensing in the UK shouldn’t affect any legal issues in the U.S., it at the very least will probably give more ammunition to DFS critics, who will point at the sites and say, “See? Told you so!”

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