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Drone Racing: Coming To A Sportsbook Near You

James Murphy
by in Entertainment on
  • The Drone Racing League has recently announced a fantasy sports partnership with FanDuel.
  • The Drone Racing League has an enviable group of sponsors including BMW, Swatch and Sky Sports.
  • With most major sports on hiatus sportsbooks are taking a renewed look at niche events.

If you’ve never heard of the Drone Racing League (DRL) you’re in the same boat that I was. The DRL is an international professional drone racing league that was founded in 2015 and has already attracted a very impressive group of sponsors and media outlets. Here’s their ‘about us’ blurb from the DRL Official Website:

DRL is the global, professional drone racing circuit for elite pilots.

With custom built racing drones traveling 90 MPH+, pilots race FPV (First Person View) through the most insane 3D courses ever created outside of a video game.

The high-speed action airs on the best sports networks, including NBC Sports, Twitter, Sky Sports, ProSieben, Groupe AB, OSN and FOX Sports Asia.

If you’re thinking it’s a bunch of geeks flying drones around the local park you’re pretty much wrong. Much like technological innovation made Texas Hold’em Poker a viable TV product the way that the sport is covered is just as impressive as the drone racing itself. Check this out:

It reminds me of one of my favorite video games from ‘back in the day’ called N20: Nitrous Oxide for the Sony Playstation. It was made even better with a soundtrack provided by former UNLV college radio DJs turned international superstars The Crystal Method:

It’s not like I’m breaking new ground with the video game comparison–in fact the league has positioned itself as the ‘next level’ of Esports.

So we’ve got an entertaining product but what about financial viability? Check out this enviable list of sponsors:


What got me looking in to the Drone Racing League was a press release that crossed my desk a few days ago announcing that they had named FanDuel as their ‘official fantasy sports partner’. With FanDuel becoming a major player in the nascent US sports betting marketplace it looks to be only a matter of time before Drone Racing shows up on sportsbook odds boards.

And why not? Esports betting is a growing segment of the industry already and based on what I’ve seen so far it appears that the DRL has a similar demographic profile. More significantly, sportsbooks are realizing in this unprecedented time when most world sports are on hiatus that they need to…err…’hedge their bets’. In theory, this should be a killer opportunity for sports betting companies with much of the world under some form of quarantine and/or ‘stay at home’ order. There’s a lot of bored people with excess time on their hands and a broadband Internet connection that would love to do some sports betting.

Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of traditional sports to bet on. Bookmakers are by nature a resilient lot and they’ve done a good job finding new sports, games and other diversions to fill the otherwise empty space on the betting board. New entertainment props, political props, ‘sport sims’, volleyball, table tennis and the ridiculously addictive phenomenon of marble racing are just some of the examples. None of these will ever replace the NFL or English Premier League in terms of popularity but they’re allowing sportsbooks to make the best of an unprecedented challenge.

Hopefully, we’ll never have another situation where we’re all quarantined at home and every significant worldwide sport is idle. At the same time, it would be a very good idea for sportsbooks to have contingency plans for a similar situation. The easiest way to do this? Continue getting creative with the sports, entertainment events and political props that end up on the betting board. By building up a market for ‘niche sports’ bookmakers not only increase their revenue but create an ‘insurance policy’ against another situation where all major sporting events go dark.

Even the most marginal niche sport is a dramatic improvement over the nonsense that ESPN has been shoveling out during the sports hiatus–‘Baby Stephen A. Smith‘, random ESPN ‘personalities’ reacting to viral sports videos, videos of NBA players playing NBA video games–essentially the same thing as watching Esports professionals play 5 on 5 basketball–and engaging in a never ending hype campaign trying to equate the very talented women’s college hoop superstar Sabrina Ionescu with Wilt Chamberlain and Steph Curry. If this type of blather is the alternative watching and betting on the Drone Racing League would be a welcome relief.

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