Fantasy Sports Not Just an American Fad: Becoming Huge in Europe

Written by:
Thomas Somach
Published on:
Apr/27/2015
Fantasy Sports Not Just an American Fad: Becoming Huge in Europe

LEEDS, England -- Wagering on fantasy sports isn't becoming a big thing just in the United States.

It's also getting huge internationally, especially in Europe.

One of the main reasons for the popularity of fantasy sports is that it's tailored to the local market and the local sports culture.

In the USA, fantasy sports thrive on football, basketball, baseball and hockey.

In Europe, it's all about soccer.

One of the up-and-coming European fantasy sports sites that is taking advantage of the European obsession with soccer--called "football" in Europe--is FantasyBet (www.fantasybet.com), based in this famed British town some 200 miles north of London.

Gambling 911 last week crossed the pond and visited FantasyBet at its British headquarters for a chat with FantasyBet managing director Eirik Bjorklund and FantasyBet co-founder Ola Amunsgard, who are both Norwegian, to see how Europeans are responding to yet another American creation that has invaded and taken over Euro culture.

Gambling 911: How does your fantasy operation work and how is it different from the many other fantasy leagues out there?

Eirik Bjorklund: Firstly, it is important to notice that our operation is European-based and does not currently include games the daily fantasy sports operators in America are offering--baseball, American football, hockey and basketball. We launched with the Barclays Premiere League as our main focus. Recently, we’ve expanded our game offerings to also include the Norwegian top league, and more European leagues and cups will follow in the times to come. What is common for all of our games is that the user can play leagues that last a season or a game week or less. In fact, single games are also available, which secures non-stop action throughout the whole game week if desired. We also have developed some action-packed games that are really fun to play. These games feature a somewhat random selection of players to choose from and limited time to set up your squad. Another thing that makes us different from the American fantasy leagues is that we operate on a betting license. This gives us the opportunity to be creative and innovative when we develop new games, since we can add elements of randomness into the mix.

G9: What states and countries are you legal in and how do you stop players who are not in those locations from joining? And what is the age limit to join and how do you verify that? 

EB: We are currently not operating in the United States, in addition to some other countries, for different reasons. Those with I.P. addresses from blocked countries are automatically blocked from registering or logging in to our website. The age limit to join our games is 18 years of age. This is always checked when the player is withdrawing money from our site. A scanned copy of a picture ID is required before any winnings are being paid. 

G9: How much does it cost to join and what do you get for your money?

EB: It is absolutely free to sign up to our website. We also have freerolls every week, which are 100 percent free to enter with 100 percent real cash to the best managers. If you want to play for real money, we accept all of the most common deposit methods like NETeller, Skrill and PaySafe cards in addition to credit card deposits. We offer new customers a first deposit bonus of a 100 percent up to 100 pounds. Every week, we run games with guaranteed prize pools, and the best time to make a profit is probably right now. 

G9: Ola Amundsgard, you are one of the co-founders of FantasyBet. People may have heard of you through your online poker accomplishments behind your online nickname Odd_Oddsen. What made you invest your time and money in the fantasy sports business? Can you tell us about your personal background?

Ola Amundsgard: I’ve always been very interested in football. I do play football myself, although in the Norwegian lower leagues, and mostly to keep in shape. I’ve made my peace with keeping my ambitions as a player on a low level like that. In recent years, I have been making a living from playing poker online. This has given me the freedom to do pretty much all the things I want to, when I want to, a privilege I would never have if I had a normal job. During this time, I also started playing fantasy Premier League and was quickly addicted to that. Having something at stake when watching a football match is so much more fun. My friends and I also had private leagues where the loser had to do a punishment after the season. This ensured that you could never really give up your team, even though you were miles behind before Christmas. When I was given the opportunity to be a part of FantasyBet, I was never in doubt that this was something I would put both time and money into. The concept is so good and fills a gap that has been present in the betting industry for a while now. I truly believe this is the future of online betting, and the fact that you can play with your friends every week makes it really great.

G9: What is an average fantasy player worth?  How much will he or she spend on daily fantasy games in a given year?  How does this compare with season-long contests?

EB: Since this is a completely new niche within the online betting industry, it is impossible to say something definite about the average worth of a daily fantasy customer before we have the numbers to make conclusions. Using numbers from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and FanDuel, it can be assumed that the value is around 100 pounds each year, which is about $150 in American money. 

G9: Can you compete with the likes of ESPN and Yahoo when it comes to fantasy sports?

EB: That remains to be seen, if they were to enter the European market of daily fantasy sports. We are first movers in an unplowed field and we believe our brand is capable of withstanding any competition, and welcome all publicity daily fantasy sports is getting. 

G9: Would it make sense for a fantasy company like yours to team up with an online sportsbook partner, such as Bookmaker.eu or Sportsbook.ag out of Costa Rica or one of the European books such as Paddy Power of Ireland or William Hill of the U.K.?  Such a partnership would give you a ready-made customer base of sports-betting fanatics, so have any such companies approached you or vice-versa?

EB: We are always looking for potential partners that could help our business grow. The upside with partnering up with a big European sportsbook with a ready-made customer base is easy too see. So far, we have decided not to go down that road, although we are never turning down business opportunities without investigating potential benefits first.

G9: Where are you based and why have you chosen that location? And are you considering branching out into other locations?

EB: We are a United Kingdom company, based in Leeds, England and licensed in Curacao through Viral Technology. We are a Norwegian startup, but since betting is not allowed in our home country we had to branch out. The decision to establish the company in the U.K. was easy to make. The U.K. is the home of both the Premier League and the most potential customers. Also, gambling is commonly accepted in the U.K. at a much higher level than in Norway.

G9: What do you see as the fantasy highlights of 2014, both the highs and the lows?  For example, what players have crushed your customer base and who were the big money-makers?

 

EB: The superior, obvious highlight of 2014 was the kick-off of the new Premier League season with FantasyBet on the starting line. We put a lot of time and effort into making the software ready for the new season and we were all delighted and proud when FantasyBet launched on schedule. Another highlight came recently, when we launched our second league, the Norwegian Tippeligaen. More games and more leagues are planned for the time ahead. We already see some customers that are performing really well and are in the contest for the top prizes every week. Also, it seems like you don’t have to be Norwegian to be a force to be reckoned with in the Norwegian fantasy leagues, all you need is to do your research properly. 

G9: What is the most money anyone has earned playing with you? 

EB: We have customers who are four figure-winners so far this season. The biggest winner, however, will be the winner of our season long Norwegian Championship game later this year. In addition to the title as Norwegian Champion of Fantasy Football, the winner will take home 100,000 Norwegian kroner, which is equal to about 8,500 British pounds or $13,000 in American money. 

G9: Do you have many female players? What percentage of your customer base is female? Are there any significant differences in the way female customers play fantasy as compared to male players, as far as strategy, tactics and expectations are concerned?

EB: Unfortunately, we don’t have gender statistics for our customer base. The absolute majority of our players are, not surprisingly, men, but there are a few female players as well. Our first football shirt freeroll was won by a woman and she was very happy to receive her brand new Arsenal shirt. She’s been a regular at our games ever since, and making some decent profit also. Fantasy football is not about gender; it’s about knowledge of the game. If you do your homework every week, you have every chance to be a winner at FantasyBet.

G9: Where do you expect fantasy in general and your company in particular to be a year from now?

EB: In general, I believe fantasy sports are here to stay and it will almost certainly keep growing in the years to come. We’ve seen the exponential growth in the U.S. over the last five years and I expect similar growth in Europe as well. Europeans love their football, and over the recent years they’ve adapted to fantasy football as well. I believe daily fantasy betting is going to take over more and more of the sports betting market, for many different reasons. The first important one, I believe, is the fact that you’re always playing against other human competitors, which turns it into much more of a skill game than betting against the house, where you’re supposed to lose in the long run. The second important reason is the fact that fantasy football is a social game, with a lot of fun, especially when watching games with your friends. The competitive nature of the game tends to trigger people to play with their friends over and over. The next year is an important year for daily fantasy sports in Europe, and we are aiming to be the frontrunners in the business with a premium brand, user-friendly software and the most recognizable games.

G9: Online sportsbook operators say it's hard to reel in affiliate partners who are used to making crazy earnings with sportsbook, casino and poker affiliate programs. How does your company look to compete in this area?

EB: Our product is unique compared to regular sportsbooks and casinos, and potential affiliates now have a great opportunity to lock in their deals before the real boom is taking place. The timing for affiliates is great right now to push daily fantasy to their customers and be part of the whole journey ahead for the business. The tendency we see now is that many fantasy-specialized affiliate sites are popping up, which is showing that more and more actors see the potential for growth in the daily fantasy industry. The competition is not near as fierce, which in turn means that daily fantasy can be the new golden age for affiliates.

G9: Do you plan on pushing your software as a white label product to potential partners and operators, meaning you would lease or sell your software to others?

EB: We are currently looking into the possibility of white labeling our product, if we find the right strategic partner.

By Tom Somach

Gambling911.com Staff Writer

tomsomach@yahoo.com

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