Interview: DraftKings and Kindbridge up the Ante With Expanded Partnership

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It’s been a busy year for Kindbridge Behavioral Health, and it just got a whole lot busier. The company massively expanded its partnership with DraftKings, bringing treatment options and resources to self-excluded players in every state where DraftKings operates sports betting or online casinos.

I touched base with Kindbridge Founder & CEO Dan Umfleet and DraftKings’ Head of Responsible Gaming Relations Chrissy Thurmond to discuss the enhanced partnership and responsible gambling as a whole.

Inside the DraftKings-Kindbridge Partnership

It all started last year when Kindbridge and DraftKings teamed up to launch a pilot program in Colorado. The program connected self-excluded players to resources for treatment and professional assistance. The goal? Fill a void for players who needed help and act as a (pun fully intended) bridge to the assistance they required.

Kindbridge formed similar programs with other operators, but DraftKings wanted to up the ante and lead the responsible gambling space. Chrissy Thurmond said:

“The pilot program was really well received, but it was only one state. So now, we have decided to really expand that relationship to all our customers in all 25 states and one province (Ontario) where we operate online with sportsbooks and online casinos. And I think we’re going to see others follow in our footsteps, which makes us really proud.”

Kindbridge Founder and CEO Dan Umfleet agrees; he sees this as a crucial foundation for expanded access to mental health care in the gambling world.

“This is a necessary starting point,” Umfleet said. “We want to build a national network of providers that understand the problem and how to address it with people who experience gambling-related harm.”

Umfleet continued, saying DraftKings was behind Kindbriudge “100 percent.” He noted that the responsible gambling framework leaves most people dissatisfied and that people need access to care. The upgraded partnership with DraftKings is the start of a nationwide network of care and resources players need, with backing from operators to give it the reach it requires.

Meeting People Where They Are

Self-excluded players are choosing to self-exclude for a reason, and it’s important to provide them with access to resources on their terms. In other words, if a player self-excludes from an online sportsbook, shouldn’t the resources they get come from the online world? DraftKings and Kindbridge think so, and they’re tailoring their approach to that ethos.

Here’s Chrissy Thurmond again:

“We’re trying to destigmatize engaging with tools and resources and information, and I think this is a perfect launching pad for that. We are meeting people where they’re at in an online environment, we’re giving them access to telehealth.”

But it’s not just telehealth. Kindbridge and DraftKings give self-excluded players self-assessment tools, screening tools, educational resources, appointments with trained counselors, and more.

“King” is in the Name

According to Kindbridge’s Daniel Umfleet, the impact of DraftKings being the first operator to sign on at this caliber is hard to capture. It’s a household name, lives in more than two dozen states, and now it’s leading the charge with Kindbridge to offer support for gamblers.

Dan Umfleet said:

“Field leadership—which is what we’re seeing DraftKings do now with this partnership—is the most important step toward full-in, industry-wide buy-in. It also sends a really strong message to regulators that we need these programs everywhere. We think other operators will come knocking and want to expand their programs, which is obviously a huge benefit for everyone.”

While DraftKings could spur more progress and buy-in for responsible gambling, Thurmond draws a line between competition and teamwork:

“We really want to put a focus on our effort to collaborate and encourage dialogue around responsible gambling so our peers will join us. In my view, the best-educated workforce will translate to a more informed player base, and this is one of the ways we can reach that goal of informing our players about the resources available to them.”

What would they say to an audience of all industry stakeholders? Chrissy Thurmond said:

“Our hope is that we assist individuals that need help and that we lead a paradigm shift, working toward an industry where everyone has access to the right tools and resources to keep this fun and safe.”

Dan Umfleet, meanwhile, kept his message to the industry short and sweet, beckoning them with three simple words: “Get on board.”

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About the Author
Cole Rush

Cole Rush

Writer and Contributor
Cole Rush is a contributor to Gaming Today. Cole is a Chicago-based writer in the gambling, media, and entertainment spaces. His work has been showcased in various gaming industry magazines and online columns.

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