News

Gambling News

DraftKings Fills Head of Sportsbook Position Ahead of Potential Federal Sports Betting Legalization

With the United States Supreme Court widely expected to repeal the current federal ban on sports betting in the coming months, daily fantasy sports (DFS) titan DraftKings is preparing to enter a new arena.

In a press release issued today, DraftKings announced that U.K. iGaming expert Sean Hurley has been hired on to serve as the site’s first “Head of Sportsbook.”

In his new role, one which was recently added to the company’s organizational hierarchy, Hurley has been assigned to “help build, launch and drive the sports betting vertical at DraftKings.”

Hurley will report to Matt Kalish, the site’s chief revenue officer and cofounder. In the statement, Kalish praised Hurley’s previous work within the European iGaming space:

“Sean brings a wealth of gaming experience to DraftKings and furthers our ability to be a leader in the sports betting market.”

Prior to joining DraftKings, Hurley spent a year as the head of commercial for the London-based Amelco, a leading backend and B2B provider for major online sportsbooks such as Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, and William Hill. Hurley also serves as an advisor to Sports Data Labs, an international firm which specializes in collecting, collating, and analyzing athletic performance data on behalf of clients ranging from professional leagues to sportsbooks.

Based in Boston, DraftKings currently operates offices there and in New York City, but Hurley will report to the company’s recently opened office in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The Garden State is the driving force behind the current push for federal reform, which emerged from New Jersey’s repeated efforts to regulate sports betting on the state level. Voters approved a referendum to allow sportsbooks back in November of 2011, and the state legislature followed up in January of 2012 by passing a bill to that effect.

A coalition of collegiate and professional sports leagues – including the NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL – responded by filing suit in federal court, alleging that New Jersey’s efforts to regulate sports betting violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. That law prohibits all but four states (Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana) from offering any form of wagering on athletics.

The resulting case, collectively known as Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association I, saw the Third Circuit rule against New Jersey under the pretense that PASPA precluded states from regulating sportsbooks. New Jersey refused to relent, passing a second Sports Wagering Act in 2014 which removed the state’s operational role by allowing Atlantic City casinos to run their respective sportsbooks.

Once again, the federal and appeals courts sided with the leagues, but in June of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear New Jersey’s final appeal. Based on the initial oral arguments heard by the court, and leagues like the MLB and NBA publicly reversing their opposition to legal sports betting, industry experts and legal analysts widely expect the Court to rule in New Jersey’s favor.

The pivotal ruling will be handed down sometime between early March and late June, and if the Court favors New Jersey’s right to legalize sports betting, PASPA will be effectively repealed.

In its statement, DraftKings made it clear that Hurley’s hiring was based largely on the expectation of an imminent PASPA repeal:

“(Hurley) will focus on preparing Sportsbook as a potential new line of business for DraftKings in anticipation of the pending Supreme Court decision in Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.”

DraftKings is hardly alone in anticipating the launch of legal sports betting industries throughout the U.S.

Atlantic City’s leading casino property, the Borgata, has already constructed a sports bar area designed for quick conversion to a sportsbook. Meanwhile, states like West Virginia, Kansas, and New York are currently moving sports betting bills through their legislatures.