As sports betting operators scramble to find unique offerings to keep bettors engaged, they’ve turned to Belarusian soccer, ping-pong, virtual NASCAR or any other live activity during the coronavirus shutdown.
Enter the Drone Racing League, which has signed a new partnership with FanDuel ahead of the DRL’s SIM Tryouts Championship.
The new free-to-play fantasy game is an extension of an already experimental approach by the DRL.
“We have always been excited about the potential of fantasy sports and sports betting,” Nicholas Horbaczewski, DRL founder and CEO, said. “It’s a sport that’s naturally suited to it, with short, repetitive races with lots of statistics.”
The first offering will have $3,000 in FanDuel credits up for grabs, but Horbaczewski said it’s just the beginning for the sport’s betting offerings.
The expected influx of new viewers comes at a good time for DRL, which is already seeing a significant increase in viewership. Since the DRL SIM Tryouts started at the end of February, the organization has had more than 2 million streams.
Those views are coming at an exponential rate week-over-week as well, with the March event drawing twice as many viewers as the week before.
“It’s a continued trend as more and more people are put into social distancing restrictions, they’re still looking for great sporting content,” Horbaczewski said. “The word is getting out to more people, and more are excited about it.”
The SIM Tryout Championship will pit the 12 finalists from the series – a virtual version of the racing league that will reward the winner with a pro contract for the 2020 DRL Allianz World Championship Season. Tryout participation included pilots from 75 countries and jumped 90% since last year.
Now, with the FanDuel partnership, DRL will be presented in front of 8.5 million users within the fantasy platform.
“We remain as committed as ever to our fans, and we’re currently working to develop new and entertaining games for them to engage with,” FanDuel President Kip Levin said. “Partnering up with the Drone Racing League allows us to collaborate with an innovative league as we give our fantasy customers more ways to play.”
The fantasy partnership with FanDuel is far from the first betting experiment DRL has offered. Horbaczewski said at the very first event, a small event, a spectator wanted to bet the person next to them $5 after the first race. At a 2017 event in London, there was live gambling, and at an event in Phoenix last year, the league allowed fans to vote for the pilot they thought would win.
This first effort will be just for FanDuel credits, and money-based betting on the sport will depend on regulatory approval down the line. But Horbaczewski sees this as a step in the direction the league, and its fans, want to go.
“We know our fans want to engage with the sports gamification of it,” Horbaczewski said. “The road to full money-based betting is a long road, we’ve been thinking about it and eager to continue down the road.”
The timing to engage with bettors, and potentially new fans, is likely beneficial in the short-term for DRL. But as DRL and the other beneficiaries from the hiatus of stick and ball sports are looking at ways to ensure the new fans stick.
“This pause in sports obviously has its drawbacks,” Horbaczewski said. “But also with any challenge comes opportunity and sports will be redefined a bit in a way that fans are discovering other ways to engage with sports.”