In what is considered a bewildering move, Draftkings UK launched their fantasy sports betting product prior to its completion, with only a small number of features available to users. This is the company’s first venture outside of the United States, and it was unimpressive to say the least. DraftKings did notify players on Friday via Twitter that the desktop version of their product was not yet ready, and that signups would only be available through Andriod and iOS apps. They also announced that the desktop product would be launching very soon.
In their own Twitter onslaught, UK players who visited DraftKings.co.UK complained about the shortcomings of the launch, including limited payment processing that did not allow credit and debit cards, and the push to use Paypal which some players were not comfortable with. Clearly the product was launched with minimal functionality, leaving their emergence into the UK legal online gambling market rather underwhelming. The poor performance has left many industry professionals and market participants wondering what would drive the urgency to launch prior to completing their full scale product. Since this is their first footprint in the UK market, it would be wise to over deliver rather than leave players disenchanted.
UK players will not be as easy to impress as American sports fans since they have a wide range of legal online sports betting options in the UK at their disposal. Fantasy betting is considered a fairly unfamiliar product to the UK gambling base, making the rush to launch an incomplete product by DraftKings even more confusing. Their fully developed product is expected to offer 11 sports initially, with the expectation that football will be the leading interest on the site among UK players.
On a more positive note, DraftKings did also announce some high profile Premier League football partnerships, which will be a significant draw to UK fans. These partnerships include Arsenal, Liverpool and Watford. Since the teams involved in these clubs most definitely were not economy priced, this effort by DraftKings to secure revenue streams outside of the United States demonstrates their belief that the UK market will be a lucrative one. It will also come without the controversy that they face in the US regarding the debate about Fantasy Sports vs online gambling, and the perceived hypocrisy of professional leagues partnering with fantasy betting brands while opposing online gambling.
Since the product released by DraftKings.co.uk left much to be desired, it is unclear just how warmly the UK sports and betting market is welcoming fantasy sports options. Negative response could be attributed to the product’s poor performance and lacking range of features rather than the market’s perception of fantasy betting in general. We should have a much clearer picture of things when the fully developed product is released.