Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

DraftKings CEO sheds little light on recent controversy in campus talk

(Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian)
(Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian)

DraftKings CEO Jason Robins shied away from discussing recent controversy surrounding the daily fantasy sports industry Tuesday night during a speaking event at the University of Massachusetts.

Robins spoke in front of nearly 350 students as a part of a moderated discussion at Mahar Auditorium. He answered a variety of questions pertaining to the success of DraftKings, which is one of two giants in the rapidly growing daily fantasy sports industry.

But Robins, who said he’d like to see the media noise surrounding companies like DraftKings “dissipate,” spent little time addressing concerns that have recently arisen as the future of daily fantasy sports faces significant questions.

Concerns regarding the legality of daily fantasy sports has prompted individual states to further investigate the industry in recent weeks, as companies such as Boston-based DraftKings and fellow competitor FanDuel handle millions of dollars waged on games each day. The Nevada Gaming Control Board recently ruled daily fantasy sports as gambling that require a state license in order to operate, while the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has looked further into regulating the industry.

Attorney General Maura Healey has also been asked to review fantasy sports companies, but said she will not move to block games held by either DraftKings or FanDuel as of now.

Additional controversy embroiled DraftKings last month after a company employee, Ethan Haskell, won $350,000 in a football contest on the website. Haskell inadvertently published data pertaining to lineup strategy, and questions arose as to whether he should’ve participated in a game with that information. The company later barred employees from competing in public fantasy games.

Robins, who was also asked about a recent lawsuit which named rival FanDuel, declined to comment on legal matters pertaining to the industry during the question-and-answer portion with students during Tuesday’s event. When asked by moderator Charles Johnson about recent attempts by regulators to establish stronger industry practices, Robins said he hoped those practices didn’t interrupt the current experience for customers.

“There will be a need as it gets bigger to put more and more in place for these types of things,” Robins said.

Robins declined to comment further to the Daily Collegian following the hour-long speaking event.

Johnson, who is the associate director at the recently-established Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, which hosted the event, focused the majority of his questions on Robins’ experiences running DraftKings.

Robins said the company, which was established in 2012 and initially operated out of the spare bedroom of one of the companies co-founders, is one of the “fastest growing companies around” in an industry that has 60 million fantasy sports players.

Part of DraftKings’ success stems from its expansive marketing strategy. A recent Boston Globe report said the company raised nearly $200 million from investors, with at least some of that money scheduled to be spent on a marketing campaign with the NFL.

Robins didn’t specifically mention any campaigns, but said the company has “ramped up” its marketing.

“We were experimenting with different messaging early on,” he said. “As we’ve grown up as a company, we’ve tried to elevate the brand.”

Johnson listed a number of high-profile DraftKings investors, including Major League Baseball, Fox, the Kraft Sports Group and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. A number of NFL teams also invest in the company, which Robins said is both an “interesting” investment and has had a “positive impact” on NFL franchises.

Robins also said the start-up company is eyeing a global move, and plans to expand into the United Kingdom in a “short while.”

“I don’t think anybody has truly built a global sports platform,” he said. “I think we can make this into almost a social network of sorts … if we can do that on a global scale, I think that’s something that’s never been done before.”

Robins said that, ultimately, the key to future success is for the current pattern of growth within the industry to continue.

“The industry itself is growing incredibly fast,” he said. “As much as we compete with FanDuel and other companies … right now the most important thing is for the overall industry to keep growing.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of the story incorrectly identified Ethan Haskell as a FanDuel employee. It has since been corrected. 

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