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Imagining the Future of FanDuel With Company President Christian Genetski

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The exec speaks with Boardroom about legalizing and expanding sports betting in the US, profitability, the promise of i-gaming, and what’s next for the industry leader.

As part of a corporate restructuring back in July 2022 under CEO Amy Howe, FanDuel named Christian Genetski as company President after more than seven years of service as Chief Legal Officer.

Genetski was a practicing lawyer for more than 20 years, an asset whose value cannot be understated given sports betting‘s ever-changing legal landscape. As a sports bettor himself — though he’s disallowed from doing so using his own company’s products and platforms — he’s always brought a sense of curiosity about the business as it’s evolved from daily fantasy sports and horse racing to a broader range of offerings across i-gaming (the all-encompassing term for online outcome-based wagering).

In the last few years before ascending to his current role, Genetski not only oversaw FanDuel’s legal groups, market access, compliance, and government affairs, but also its strategic, league, and team partnerships. Gradually, his purview came to expand to the point that much of what the Washington, DC resident did before being named President actually remains the same. Genetski personally estimates that roughly one-third of his job changed since the summer, with the newest portion of the emphasis coming on the business side.

In parent company Flutter’s most recent quarterly earnings report back in November, FanDuel boasted a 42% market share for US sports betting, and further estimated that the value of the overall American gaming market will rise from $9 billion in 2022 to $40.5 billion in 2030 with betting expected to be legal in 80% of states. Mobile sports betting is now legal in 26 states, and it’s up to Genetski to open in even more states in addition to taking on new roles overseeing corporate communications, business development, and investor relations.

“All of that rolls up to me spending a lot more time thinking about longer-term transformational opportunities for the business by getting out a little bit of the day-to-day oversight of the legal stuff,” Genetski told Boardroom.

With that in mind, FanDuel brought on Katie Peters as Senior Vice President for Public Policy. She’s in charge of a full team, including an outside law firm, that helps manage lobbyists across 35 states. In late January, Genetski visited the New York state capitol in Albany to testify in a legislative hearing on sports betting and i-gaming, advocating for the latter’s legalization in the country’s top betting market and lowering the nation’s highest sports betting tax rate.

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There’s constant overlap between FanDuel’s lobbying, partnerships, and business development work, Genetski said, because the company must constantly monitor developments in state legislatures like New York while advocating for new states to legalize sports betting at the same time — new states that will have a whole different set of rules regarding which i-gaming offerings are permitted, which operators can obtain licenses, how those licenses are administered, and how it all gets taxed.

“We’re always trying to figure out what the right long-term bets [are that] we want to make as a business, but none of us have a crystal ball,” he said. “So, there are some advantages to having people who are close to that work and feel like they have the best sense of where things are heading while also working on the business side.”

Critically, not all of FanDuel and FanDuel Sportsbook’s US competitors rely on sports betting as the main part of their business, but those competitors inevitably become partners when lobbying states to either let betting in or enact more favorable regulations (for instance, lower tax rates) in existing markets.

“The hardest part is trying to find the path, the consensus, so everybody can win something and not lose too much to get these things across the finish line,” Genetski said.

Sometimes, the finish line itself disappears into thin air.

As bills are hammered out in Congress or a state legislature, a key issue may get held hostage and an initiative favored by FanDuel ultimately fails over a completely unrelated detail, making the company’s lobbying for naught. As Genetski sees it, you have to live with the process sometimes and understand that the industry isn’t going to experience many revolutions overnight — even five years after the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that first allowed individual states to legalize sports betting.

Genetski and FanDuel are optimistic that this demanding, sometimes arduous process will yield a significant milestone in 2023: That the company will become the first US betting operator to turn a profit for a full year. Moving ahead competitors across the industry will either be focused similarly on profitability or on establishing a viable path to get there, which the President believes will stabilize valuations and stock prices across the board.

Maryland, Ohio, and Massachusetts are the three latest states to come on board in some capacity, with many more still in a very early high-growth phase. Genetski acknowledged that FanDuel loses money when it goes into new market — every brand in this space does — but the value truly begins to realize itself in year two, with the break-even typically coming in year three. And even as veteran sports betting states like New Jersey become profitable and stay that way, he said the company isn’t taking its foot off the gas in finding ways to acquire new users and expand its US market share further.

“Over time, the more states get mature, that value proposition gets a little easier. We have some advantages with our scale because we really can do both things at once,” Genetski said. “We will be the proof point for the market that this business is a profitable business.”

As FanDuel remains in customer acquisition mode — especially around peak times like the Super Bowl, March Madness, The Masters, NBA Finals, and NFL season kickoff — the exec told Boardroom that it is constantly focused on how much time and how much of one’s bankroll is invested in its own product compared to its competitors, understanding that plenty of mobile bettors might use several different apps to bet on the same handful of events.

That’s a challenge. It’s also an opportunity.

“It’s unrealistic to think that most of our customers aren’t going to try two or three sportsbooks at some point,” Genetski said. “So, it’s critical that when they try ours, we deliver the best user experience from the beginning.”

That experience includes customer generosity like free bets, odds boosts, and intervening to forgive certain bad beats, but also in top-notch customer service, competitive prices and odds, and offering as many markets as possible that fans truly want to wager on. Those elements all help ensure that in a crowded marketplace with a bevvy of options, FanDuel is a brand that, in Genetski’s words, users aren’t embarrassed to be associated with. And in terms of acquiring more Gen-Z users as they become a larger share of the target demographic, having a mobile app that’s intuitive and user-friendly for both novice and expert bettors alike is more important than ever before.

“If all of our users spend 80% of their time on our app and then occasionally like someone’s product offering around a certain sport a little better than ours, that’s a good place for us to be,” Genetski said.

In addition to the path to profitability, Genetski expects 2023 to bring the overall i-gaming conversation more to the forefront. While he doesn’t expect more than a state or two to pass sweeping i-gaming legalization all in one go, online gambling and casino-style gaming could gain even more momentum this year, especially if the US slides into a recession and states need more ways to drive revenue.

Genetski also thinks the pace of new states adopting sports betting could slow this year. There will also be an inevitable pack of new entrants to the market, with Fanatics and Bet365 potentially looking respectively to kick-start and expand their sport betting presences. He also expects smaller competitors either to close down or consolidate in 2023.

Peer-to-peer betting — essentially bettors wagering against fellow bettors — has become an increasingly popular subject as well, but Genetski said the Federal Wire Act, which prohibits the transmission of information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers in the US across state lines, hamstrings the possibility of growth. Flutter’s Betfair Exchange is the world’s largest peer-to-peer operator, but the inability for fans in one state with one set of laws to bet or lay against fans in another state with a different set of laws amounts to FanDuel not yet seeing a viable commercial opportunity here and now.

As of this writing, we’re just a week away from Super Bowl Sunday, where FanDuel’s first-ever Big Game commercial spot will feature none other than Rob Gronkowski attempting a 25-yard field goal live during the third quarter as part of its “Kick Of Destiny” campaign with $5 million in free bets on the line. Genetski described the effort as distinct from any ad campaign FanDuel has run before, and he’s pleased thus far with the work of FanDuel’s in-house marketing team and outside agency Wieden+Kennedy in pulling it all together.

“Gronk is just the perfect person for the concept,” Genetski said. “He’s been incredible to work with, really leaning in on everything. And it’s the right time in our business where we’ve reached a level of recognition in the sports consciousness.”

FanDuel wanted an ad that would make it part of the game, where fans feel like they’re participating in the action and feel engaged. Genetski feels strongly that they’ve accomplished that goal even before the Chiefs and Eagles kick off in Glendale, Arizona.

“We didn’t want to win the award for cleverest ad that had nothing to do with who we are as a business,” Genetski said. “As [Cowboys kicker] Brett Maher has shown us, nothing is automatic, not even for a professional. But we’re excited about Gronk and very optimistic that he will make it.”

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