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Fubo Sportsbook Now Live In Iowa

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • Fubo Sportsbook is officially ‘live’ after launching in Iowa earlier today.
  • Fubo Sportsbook is a sports betting platform created by the gaming subsidiary of fuboTV.
  • Fubo Sportsbook has market access agreements in place for Arizona, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New Jersey.

Nearly a year after they first announced plans to enter the sports betting business, fuboTV has done just that. Earlier today, Fubo Sportsbook went live in Iowa representing the first market for the Fubo Gaming operated platform. Fubo Gaming is the gaming subsidiary of the streaming TV giant (and, inexplicably, goes with an upper case ‘F’ instead of fuboTV’s stylized lower case ‘f’). You can expect Fubo Sportsbook to quickly enter several other states via market agreements.

There were plenty of skeptics when fuboTV announced their plans simultaneous to the execution of a binding agreement to acquire a gaming technology company called Vigtory. Although a myriad of non-gaming companies have publicly or privately expressed interest at jumping on the bandwagon that’s easier said than done for a number of reasons. Bumbling politicians, clueless lottery officials and anti-competitive regulatory frameworks in many states have–for now, at least–kept the actual US sports betting marketplace limited to less than 10 states. A bigger problem appeared to be building a sports betting company from scratch. Having a technology platform doesn’t hurt, but that still left fuboTV with a ton of work to do in order to launch in a new industry.

Here’s the backstory on Vigtory from the fuboTV press release announcing the deal:

Vigtory was founded in 2019 by Sam Rattner and backed by SeventySix Capital. Rattner is a digital sports entrepreneur who is noted for developing and integrating sports betting content and technology with robust consumer experiences. Rattner previously founded Engine Sports, a back-testing engine allowing retail sports bettors the ability to build algorithmic betting strategies within an interactive experience. Scott Butera, who was the president of interactive gaming at MGM Resorts International and was instrumental in launching BetMGM, joined Vigtory as Rattner’s co-CEO in 2020. Prior to MGM, Butera was commissioner of the Arena Football League and held C-suite leadership positions at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Tropicana Entertainment, Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino and Trump Entertainment, among other gaming businesses.

Under the proposed acquisition, both Butera and Rattner will join fuboTV’s gaming division as president and COO, respectively.

fuboTV is hoping to leverage the convergence of streaming sports media, content and betting. There are plenty of companies trying to do this, all going about it in a different way. So far, the most success has come from gaming companies forging alliances with content providers or media concerns such as Penn National is doing with Barstool Sports or Bally’s with the Sinclair Network owned sports channels.

Fubo Sportsbook has made some very impressive personnel moves over the past year in addition to the aforementioned Scott Butera who came on board in the Vigtory deal. One excellent hire was Ali Ghanavati to serve as head of regulatory technology for Fubo Gaming. Ghanavati has considerable experience on the regulatory side of the industry including a stint as deputy chief of the Technical Services Bureau for the State of New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, where he consulted with numerous state agencies and gaming jurisdictions regarding casino gaming regulation and standards. If you’re serious about creating a sports betting platform and getting access to as many US states as possible it would be hard to make a better hire than Ghanavati.

Fubo Gaming also tapped former Penn National Gaming executive Carl Sottosanti to join the board of the directors and to serve as chairman of the gaming compliance committee. Sottosanti is a lawyer by trade and served as executive vice president and general counsel for Penn National. His focus was primarily on M & A, gaming development opportunities, corporate governance and compliance. He led the legal component of all of the recent major deals at Penn National including he Barstool Sports and Pinnacle Entertainment acquisitions. Another excellent personnel move that gives Fubo Gaming industry experience and specialized knowledge right where they need it the most.

In sum, Fubo Gaming didn’t go the route that many new entrants to the gaming industry have done by hiring ‘big names’ in sports and/or media to get attention. They brought on team members with minimal recognition outside of the gaming industry but with the perfect expertise to quickly build and scale a sports betting enterprise. Even with the expertise of the Vigtory team to lean on in making hires this is remarkable for a company moving into a new industry.

Throughout the year, it became evident that Fubo Sportsbook was really putting something together. They made a number of lower profile moves that will likely be leveraged to grow their business–like opening a branded content studio–and an online shop for branded merch featuring both the TV network and gaming brand. They also began the ‘heavy lifting’ component of getting into the US sports betting business, lining up market access agreements at least five states. Heading into the second half of the year, they started working promotional deals and partnerships with teams including the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers and NFL New York Jets and sports organizations like NASCAR. Now they’ve got an actual sportsbook and have started taking bets.

Here’s some context from the press release announcing the launch explaining fuboTV’s (small ‘f’) strategy with Fubo Sportsbook (capital ‘F’):

More than a wagering platform, Fubo Sportsbook is purpose-built to meet U.S. sports fans’ growing demand for interactivity through an industry-first integration of an owned-and-operated sports wagering platform with a live TV streaming experience. By integrating with fuboTV, the mobile app delivers a personalized omniscreen experience that turns passive viewers into active and engaged participants. Fubo Sportsbook is launching with a unique feature, Watching Now, which leverages fuboTV’s first-party user data to allow users to instantly view wagering content based upon what they are streaming – even as they change the channel. Fubo Gaming intends to continue iterating the app, launching additional features, subject to regulatory approval, that will further integrate wagering into the fuboTV platform, to create an even more immersive and personalized experience.

They also offered some compelling statistics about streaming uptake, sports betting and the combination thereof:

Fubo Sportsbook and fuboTV sit at the unique intersection of two expanding markets: sports wagering and digital sports entertainment. According to a study by Gabelli Securities and the US Census Bureau, U.S. sports betting revenue is expected to grow from a projected $2.1 billion in 2021 to $10.1 billion in 2028. Additionally, recent research from TDG reveals that 54 million households will be broadband-only by 2025, a 42% increase from 2020, in part because over-the-top media services can deliver highly personalized experiences that linear TV cannot.

Streaming TV–known as over-the-top media services or OTT in the biz–is already huge and will only get bigger. I’m not sure if many ‘analog era’ investment analysts appreciate what is going on here but I don’t think that we’ve scratched the surface of OTT media’s potential. The more they break down the ossified and regimented structure of the legacy broadcasting business the more it’ll blow up. The much hyped ‘a la carte’ ability to pick and choose TV networks is just the beginning. The bigger picture is complete personalization of your media experience. Sports betting also has limitless potential but also comes with a more significant risk environment. Simply put, there’s a profound risk of a cabal of state government regulators, legacy gaming industry operators, status quo power brokers (eg: tribal gaming in Florida), and bureaucratic incompetence ‘killing the golden goose’.

The sports betting revenue numbers in the previous paragraph are highly realistic, but with a player focused and highly competitive ecosystem governed by a (very) light regulatory touch those could increase by an order of magnitude. I’m concerned that the sports betting industry isn’t focusing enough on these challenges at the outset. I understand the desire for companies to bring in revenues in any way possible, but it will be a lot easier to create a favorable US sports betting ecosystem from the outset than it will be to go back and fix everything that has been screwed up. Governments are loathe to give up power and politically corrected incumbents will do whatever it takes to stave off competition. A company like Fubo Sportsbook that is a) outside of the traditional gaming industry power structure and b) creating a new paradigm for the business are going to face the most significant issues dealing with corruption, cronyism and the tendency of government to put the consolidation of power over doing something right.

Scott Butera, president of Fubo Gaming, is understandably elated to see his sports betting platform go live:

“We’re thrilled to launch Fubo Sportsbook and begin to bring U.S. sports fans a next-level interactive viewing and betting experience — one entirely tailored to the sports and entertainment they care about most. As the industry continues to expand, it is increasingly important to meet sports fans’ growing demand for personalized and immersive experiences. By integrating with fuboTV, we aim to make that a reality.”

Ditto David Gandler, co-founder and CEO of fuboTV, who advanced his company’s unique vision for sports betting:

“fuboTV’s vision to define a new category of interactive sports and entertainment television takes another major step forward with the launch of Fubo Sportsbook. This is a pivotal moment not just for fuboTV, but for the U.S. sports wagering and entertainment industries because it is the first time the two are truly coming together in one ecosystem. It’s important to realize that Fubo Sportsbook is not simply an add-on product to fuboTV, but a product synced with the live TV streaming experience. We expect this integration will create a flywheel that improves engagement and retention, as well as drives advertising revenue. In the coming months, we plan to further integrate our sportsbook with fuboTV to create a comprehensive and engaging TV and wagering experience.”

Assuming regulators get out of the way, the convergence of sports betting and streaming content is about to get very interesting. fuboTV competitor DAZN–best known for their heavy emphasis on boxing–has recently hired former Entain executive Ian Turnbull to create a betting/gaming gameplan for the company. As for Fubo Sportsbook, they’ll likely next set up shop in the states where they’ve secured access agreements: Arizona, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New Jersey. I’d also expect to see them in Colorado fairly soon given the state’s highly competitive market and intelligent regulatory framework. In any case, kudos to fubo/Fubo for getting their sportsbook launched–looking forward to see what’s next from them.

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