Is there any wonder why the folks at USFantasy Sports are bursting with excitement about next week’s much-anticipated launch at Nevada sportsbooks?
USFantasy Sports CEO Bob Kocienski (photo by USFantasy)“Yes, all the ingredients are there for this to be a smashing success, no doubt,” a beaming Bob Kocienski, USFantasy Sports’ CEO, told Casino City as the launch of his company’s new product nears next Friday, Sept. 2. “We’re excited. The sportsbooks are excited. And we know this is something the betting public is starving for. We can’t wait to get going.”
Nearly a year after the Nevada Gaming Board shut down the services offered by the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel, USFantasy Sports is seeking to change the fantasy sports paradigm. Instead of drafting a fantasy team for an entire season or selecting a daily fantasy team with salary cap restrictions, USFantasy Sports will offer a pari-mutuel format that follows the model seen when betting on horse racing.
That’s right: win-place-show, exactas, trifecta boxes and Pick 7s for professional sports is here.
“Just think of it as a horse race, but we’re switching out the horses with professional athletes,” Kocienski explained matter-of-factly.
USFantasy Sports President Vic Salerno, a 38-year veteran of the race and sportsbook industry in Nevada and the former chairman of the board and CEO of American Wagering Inc., received the first daily fantasy sports license from the Nevada Gaming Commission back in June. He immediately added his good friend Kocienski, another 38-year veteran of the industry and his COO at American Wagering Inc., to his management team, as well as Michael Knapp, the architect of the USFantasy Sports format, who as the COO brings another 35 years of experience in gaming and race and sports handicapping to the team.
“We obviously have a lot of depth and knowledge of the industry,” Kocienski said. “Now we want to catapult those experiences and deliver a consumer-protected, regulated product that the public is absolutely going to love.”
USFantasy Sports calls the format “as simple as it gets,” and if you’re at all familiar with how the betting options work at the horse or dog track, then it is indeed straightforward.
For example, on an NFL Sunday there will be a morning line for a number of different “events,” as they are referred to. There will be a list of quarterbacks with different odds on throwing for the most passing yards that week. Those odds will change throughout the day, depending on what the betting public wagers on.
There will be other “events” such as most rushing yards and most receiving yards, and individual win, place and show wagers will be available for each — as well as exotic wagers such as exactas and trifectas. You will be able to combine events into daily doubles and Pick 3s. There will be a weekly progressive Pick 7 pool (that has yet to be officially named) in which a guaranteed $1 million prize will be awarded on $1 wagers if you can select the winner of all seven events (QB, RB, 2 WR, TE, defense) on a particular day.
The format will also be available for baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, NASCAR and eventually whatever the betting public wants.
“We have a ton of experience, but we don’t claim to know everything,” Kocienski said. “We will have our ears to the sidewalk. We’ll be listening to our customers, and we want our guys at the race and sportsbooks to tell us what the public wants, because that’s what we want to deliver.”
Regarding the DFS formats that were previously offered to Nevada residents by DraftKings and FanDuel, Kocienski thinks that the USFantasy Sports option is different on more ways than just how you can bet it.
“The other concepts are flawed,” he said. “I don’t want to throw stones at the other companies, but when you have 99% of the money being won by 1% of the people playing, how can you consider that consumer protected?
“We want to be regulated. We like to be at the front door, not the back door. We’re used to being regulated. The regulators know more about us than we know about ourselves and that’s fine with us. We want to have consumer protection and transparency, unlike our competitors.”
Kocienski added that USFantasy Sports is already in negotiations with nearly 10 other states about adding its format once legislation is passed.
“I wish I could tell you when and where we’ll be as soon as this football season, but it’s not that easy to predict,” he said. “All I can say is that other states are very interested. I spent a handful of days in the Pennsylvania legislation, and they like our product. Like all the other states, it all depends on how we fit into the different bills once they are passed.”
As for the Nevada launch, Kocienski said that the company expects its initial customer base to be at least 50% new business, and possibly up to 80%.
“We’re going to draw a lot of new business to the casinos, especially millennials, who are spending a lot of money right now at the pools and nightclubs, but not on gaming,” he said. “We think we can help change that.”
A final list of sportsbooks where the USFantasy Sports betting options will be available was not finalized at press time of this article, but Kocienski said he expects that the race and sportsbooks at all the Boyd Gaming, CG Technology, MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Stations Casinos will offer the content soon.
“I’m confident that by the end of September we’ll be in close to 60 race and sportsbooks throughout the state,” he said. “And I’ll venture to guess that the ones that don’t have us will offer it eventually because of competitive pressures.”
CG Technology’s Vice President of Risk Management Jason Simbal confirmed on Friday that there had not been an agreement signed with USFantasy Sports just yet, but he expected one to be finalized by Week 1 of the NFL season in two weeks.
He also thinks that the product has great potential, once the betting public is aware it is available and is educated on the format.
“It’s going to have to be a collective effort by the sportsbooks who carry it and USFantasy to educate people on how to bet it, but once that happens I do think that there is an appetite for this kind of format, particularly by the recreational bettor that likes to bet a little to win a lot,” said Simbal, whose company runs the sportsbooks at several Nevada casinos, including The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, The Venetian Las Vegas and M Resort. “As for the professional sports bettors, they only like to wager when they think that have an advantage. It’s too early to say if they will jump in on this, but let’s wait and see what happens. If there’s enough volume in the pools, it might warrant some action from them. We’ll see.”