Amy Howe spent the first two years after the fall of PASPA as the chief operating officer at Ticketmaster. It was an informing time.
Cognizant of the importance of live experiences for fans and customers, Howe was already making the rounds in sports betting circles, joining a panel at a Sloan MIT Sports Analytics Conference in 2019 that was beginning to address the shaping of the burgeoning American sports wagering economy.
As professional sports leagues and media outlets stopped kicking against the impending possibility of legal sports betting as a national venture, sportsbooks began coalescing around the possibilities of it as an entertainment option. Pro sports leagues and media outlets soon joined the huddle, sniffing a rare new vertical in a landscape where fickle television viewership too often quakes business models.
Engagement tool became a maxim. If they bet on it, they’ll watch it became canon.
FanDuel, which brought a database of daily fantasy players into its new sports betting realm, was ready. Howe was, too.
A pragmatic leader with an eye toward innovation and profitability, Howe set a paradigm that has helped solidify the American arm of the Flutter Entertainment juggernaut as the preferred taste of American sports bettors in what is a crowded and often confusing marketplace.
This is the first in a Gaming Today series around the fifth anniversary of legal sports betting in US. On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), allowing states to pass their own laws regarding sports betting. Since then, sports betting laws have been passed in more than 30 states.
Howe Helps FanDuel Create American Sports Betting Marketplace
In 2021, Howe joined FanDuel as president, later became interim chief executive officer when Matt King left the company, and then became the first female to lead an American sportsbook company in an industry that still skews heavily male.
Certainly, FanDuel was already on an upward trajectory as the sports betting market-share leader in North America when Howe took charge. But her leadership has been as much about shaping the future of sports betting as fending off rival DraftKings for the interest and dollars of bettors in 37 jurisdictions where the enterprise is in some form of legal implementation.
Howe’s presence atop a major American gambling company is part of the reason her presence has been so impactful. But her importance transcends what she and therefore FanDuel have done.
In September 2022, FanDuel became the first North American sports betting brand to report a profitable quarter. With customer acquisition spending seen as out of control, and companies razing cash in buying competitors, this was significant. It will remain so as the company readies to list on US stock exchanges late this year or in 2024.
Coming out of an era when gambling companies spent millions on ad blitzes that alienated and annoyed potential customers in new states coming online, FanDuel’s profitability was a breakthrough, signaling an industry pullback that might stave off the type of governmental response enacted in Europe in recent years.
“Howe has managed to strike a delicate balance between continually reinvesting in the business while also recognizing that the market is calling for profitability. That’s an intricate waltz and she is managing it to perfection.
Chris Grove, partner Eilers & Krejcik to Business Insider in 2022.
As importantly, Howe announced in June 2022 that FanDuel would stop using terms like “risk-free” in promotional advertising, exhibiting an understanding of the type of responsible gambling nuance that has often struggled to keep up with what has been at times a frenzied land-grab for new customers.
There was debate whether the pivot to “no sweat” is a play on synonyms designed to deflect governmental scorn, but the move was overall lauded by problem-gambling advocacy programs.
The only question now: What does Howe have planned for PASPA +10 CE?
Five Who Helped Shape Post-PASPA Era of Legal Sports Betting
Not the only five, of course. This list, made in consultation with industry observers and influencers, attempts to reflect the broad scope of the sports betting business in the United States.
- Amy Howe, CEO, FanDuel
- Ted Leonsis, owner, Monumental Sports & Entertainment: Owner of the Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics was on the vanguard of his peers in unabashedly advocating for sports betting as an entertainment opportunity for fans. The first in-venue sportsbook in a North American pro sports arena was opened in Capital One Arena in 2021. The Caps also became the first North American top-four team to acquire a gambling company as a jersey patch sponsor (Caesars).
- Ken Ramirez, former chairman, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians: Not a national figure, but of national importance to the sports betting industry. The San Manuels under Ramirez largely funded the opposition campaign to Prop 27, which would have legalized mobile and retail sports betting in California.
- David Rebuck, director, New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement: Helped establish the sports betting model emulated by other states that have legalized.
- Adam Silver, commissioner, NBA: Among the first pro sports league heads to pivot from an anti-gambling stance into an advocate.