DraftKings Isn’t Playing The Joker With Drone Racing And Cornhole

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First it was Major League Eating, back in the autumn, that DraftKings struck a partnership with.

And then in 2021, DraftKings announced partnerships with another pair of niche sports: The Drone Racing League and the American Cornhole League.

These announcements were met with somewhat predictable Twitter eyrolls.

But let’s step back for a moment: Here’s DraftKings, a company that didn’t exist a decade ago and now has a market cap of more than $25 billion, investing its time and money in “sports” — sorry, sports — that are currently, at best, niche. On the surface, it looks like a big nothingburger. But come on — DraftKings must know what it’s doing, right?

I believe DraftKings is trying to cast a wide net and ensure they have an offering for you no matter what your sport of choice is,” said Matias Dorta, the vice president of marketing for Roundhill Investments, the company that features a sports betting-focused fund called the BETZ ETF. “If you want to bet, DraftKings wants you as a customer.”

Dorta noted that in January of this year, Colorado sports bettors placed more than $11 million in wagers on … table tennis.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see other niche sports gain some sort of betting popularity,” he said.

Such as cornhole and drone racing.

Big step for cornhole

“The next big step for us is to get into sports gambling,” said Trey Ryder, the chief marketing officer for the American Cornhole League (ACL). “We tried to get in the fantasy space on our own a few years back, but it’s very difficult to do in-house. To find a partner like DraftKings was music to our ears.” 

The ACL’s deal with DraftKings is for one year, and it’s exclusive. Meaning, FanDuel or others could come knocking, but for now, the partnership is locked in.

“We’ve had conversations with other sportsbooks, and there were other opportunities, but DraftKings was the most excited to work with us,” Ryder said. It’s just a good fit.”

Here’s an interesting wrinkle: While DraftKings has no equity stake in the ACL, it’s not necessarily something that’s completely off the table.

“Equity was not discussed, but we’re open to have those types of conversations,” Ryder said. “That wasn’t something they were initially interested in. One of their big initiatives was to get into more niche sports. And we’re a niche sport for now, but we’re aggressive in our mindset and vision. We want to keep getting bigger and bigger.”

And having DraftKings as an interested partner can only help. 

Currently, wagering on cornhole is legal in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Indiana, and Ryder said New Jersey will be next on the list.

“Which would be huge for us,” Ryder said. “All the paperwork is submitted, we’re just waiting for the thumbs up.”

Drone on

As for the Drone Racing League (DRL)? Its president, Rachel Jacobson, was not available for an interview this week, and instead sent along an emailed response.

“Drone Racing League is ‘sitting on a goldmine of young, tech-obsessed, and highly valuable fans’ to quote SportsBusiness Journal on our Tech-setter audience — a rising global segment of millions of consumers who don’t follow traditional sports or eSports, but love drone racing,” she wrote. “Our fans are 90 percent more likely to place a sports bet than average sports fans, and we’re excited to work with betting operators to tap into this incredible market.”

And for now, that betting partner is DraftKings, which has exclusive marketing and betting rights to the league.

Wagering on the DRL is currently offered in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, and West Virginia — and people are apparently paying attention.

According to figures released by the DRL, there were more than 20 million viewers on Twitter in the league’s first race where betting was allowed, and another 1.2 million people watched the “pre-flight” show to learn how to wager on the sport. Both were co-branded events.

Still snickering, Twitterverse?

And next up for DraftKings?

I believe the general idea for DraftKings is to bring you in to wager on X or Y sport with the belief you’ll then bet on other sports and become a user of their other products such as DFS and online casino,” Dorta said. 

As for what’s next?

Dorta believes that a more mature market may get a big DraftKings boost soon.

“Keep an eye on Draftkings and eSports,” Dorta said. “I see them making a big move here in 2021.”

Photo by Shutterstock





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