FOX Bet Looks to Make its Mark With Michigan Online Sports Betting
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: A Fox Sports camera operator.
Against a crowded market, FOX Bet likes its odds.
Capitalizing on relationships with some of the biggest names in online gaming and American media, FOX Bet officials say they are well positioned to fend off DraftKings, BetMGM and a dozen other top competitors in what could be one of the most lucrative iGaming markets in the country. Speaking in an interview with the Action Network, FOX Bet CEO Kip Levin said his company’s long-standing connections with online poker and football broadcasting are among the many key factors setting his company up for success in Michigan.
Supreme Court Decision Creates Sports Betting Potential
Three years ago, legal online sports betting in Michigan — or anywhere outside Nevada — seemed unthinkable. Now the Wolverine State is just days away from what could be one of the highest-grossing online sports betting markets in the country.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal sports betting ban in May 2018. This set up a race for a share of the nascent U.S. sports betting industry and a series of massive corporate moves that are still shaping the industry.
Nearly a year after the court ruling, Fox Sports acquired a portion of The Stars Group, parent company of leading real-money online poker leader PokerStars. It also announced the creation of the FOX Bet sportsbook, becoming the first American sports broadcaster to create a dedicated sports wagering platform.
Five months after that deal was announced, European gaming giant Flutter Entertainment, which had acquired FanDuel just days after the court’s 2018 ruling, added The Stars Group, bringing FOX Bet under its corporate umbrella. Though it shares a corporate connection with FanDuel, FOX Bet is working to make an independent name for itself as another top sports betting option.
FOX Sports Brand Expands to Betting
FOX Bet’s online sportsbook is now live in New Jersey, the nation’s largest market by handle, as well as Pennsylvania and Colorado. In January 2020, the company reached a deal with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians to run online sports betting as well as casino gaming and poker in Michigan.
Levin said FOX’s long-standing brand name helps it stand out in the competitive state markets it operates in currently, and will do the same in Michigan. More than two-dozen online sportsbooks are set to launch in Michigan and as many as 15 that have already received provisional licensing could do so in the coming weeks.
The key to standing out, Levin said, will be harnessing the Fox and PokerStars brands.
In addition to FS1, foxsports.com and a host of other ventures, Fox reaches tens of millions of sports fans directly every Sunday in the fall with its NFL broadcasts, which are typically among the most watched programs across all television channels. Millions more watch Fox’s Saturday college football package.
In Michigan, the Fox name is particularly powerful, Levin said. Fox has rights to most broadcasts featuring teams in the NFC, the NFL conference that includes the home-state Detroit Lions. The company also has deep ties with the Big Ten, which includes the state’s most-followed college programs in the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans.
Levin said this helps explain the massive rise of FOX Bet Super Six across the country. Participation in the free-to-play contest where players predict the outcomes of six games and winners take home cash prizes, has doubled year-over-year.
This shows the potential for single-game sports wagering, especially in a sports-crazy state such as Michigan, Levin said.
Online Poker Plays Key Role
Michigan will also be one of the first states with legal, real money, online poker, which is also expected to launch in the coming weeks. Levin said there is tremendous overlap between poker players and sports bettors, and FOX Bet’s app allows seamless transition between both gaming options.
The PokerStars name and existing reputation among poker players is another major leg up on the market, Levin said. PokerStars has been arguably the most well-known brand in North American online poker, creating an invaluable boost for attracting poker players and giving them a convenient sports betting option as well.
Michigan is also set to begin player liquidity agreements with Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the next year or so, creating even greater cross-promotional opportunities for the PokerStars and FOX Bet brands, Levin said.
Next Steps Ahead of Online Launch
More than a year after Michigan legalized sports betting, online sportsbooks are set to go live.
Though retail betting launched in March 2020, Michigan law required further rulemaking and regulatory review measures before mobile betting could begin. With casino closures curtailing in-person sports betting options, Michiganders — and the industry at large — have been eagerly awaiting the online go-live date.
In mature markets, online wagering can make up as much as 90 percent of betting handle. Michigan should easily near or even top that ratio, especially during the cold winter months.
Michigan officials are set to announce the online sports betting opening date in the coming days. Officials said at a recent meeting it will take several more days after that for testing and review before bettors can start placing wagers, but online betting is set to begin in time for this year’s Super Bowl, typically the single-most bet upon event in the U.S.
FOX Bet will have as many as 14 operators to compete with once it launches in the coming weeks, and likely more to come in the following months. Behind its existing brand equity in the Fox and PokerStars names, and the success of newer ventures such as Super Six, FOX Bet is confident it will again be able to stand out in one of the most dynamic sports betting markets in the country.