Responsible gaming is a duty shared by the entire US online gambling industry, says Alison Kutler, FanDuel Group‘s vice president of sustainability and responsible gaming. Her employer, sports betting leader and online casino heavyweight FanDuel, deemed responsible gaming a priority on “Day One,” Kutler said in an interview with Bonus.
Her words said yesterday to Bonus may carry extra weight with US online gambling insiders, as well as regulators and lawmakers. That’s important because FanDuel Sportsbook is the top US sportsbook by market share, and FanDuel Casino is likewise among the best online casino brands. What’s more, Kutler held an important position in the US government until just six years ago.
Plus, Kutler’s interview with Bonus comes at a time when state lawmakers have seemingly put the brakes on many efforts to legalize online casino gambling. Only Rhode Island succeeded this year at making iGaming the law of the land, set to launch in 2024. Part of the reason for that stall was heightened scrutiny on legal online gambling operators from mainstream media, the public, then state lawmakers.
So on April 20, 2023, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced the state with a decade-long legal iGaming history had created the role of “Responsible Gaming Coordinator.” He also spoke about added resources for problem gamblers interested in self-exclusion.
Then on July 14, the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) adopted a problem gambling resolution to assist states in developing responsible gambling standards.
On July 24, FanDuel Group announced Kutler’s appointment.
2023, the Year Responsible Gaming Matters Most?
Because responsible gaming is in the spotlight in 2023, many state lawmakers and regulators have been increasing penalties on online gambling operators. They’ve been tightening language on marketing and advertising rules. They’ve been paying closer attention to problem gambling and gambling addiction.
Whether through state regulatory action or operator choice, language about “risk-free” bets is largely gone from television and online ads.
However, some online gambling operators say they showed their commitment to responsible gaming a long time ago.
FanDuel’s “risk-free” bets changed to “no-sweat” wagers last year.
The operator’s parent company, Dublin-based Flutter Entertainment (Flutter Entertainment 25,28 +0,02%), introduced its Positive Impact Plan on Feb. 28, 2022. In part, the plan would mean Flutter’s global brands, including FanDuel, would promote “sustainable customer relationships.” That involved responsible gaming but helped “deliver a better experience for every customer, rather than focusing solely on identifying and addressing potential risks.”
While it’s been in place since November 2019, Kindred Group‘s Journey Towards Zero is primarily known for attempting to reduce the online gambling company’s revenue from “harmful gambling” behavior to zero. Kindred is the parent company of Unibet.
FanDuel’s Position in the US Marketplace
Tomorrow, world markets are scheduled to get an update from Flutter about the company’s year-to-date earnings.
As of Q4 2022, FanDuel Sportsbook held 50% of US online sports betting’s market share, said Flutter CEO Peter Jackson in Flutter’s 2022 annual report.
As of today, FanDuel is still advertising itself on Google as “America’s #1 Sportsbook.”
In the most recent earnings report issued on May 4, Flutter credited FanDuel Casino with leading its US iGaming brands to a 23% market share in Q1 2023.
It all adds up to Flutter’s US brands providing 38% of its Q1 2023 revenue, with FanDuel as the top earner. That’s also why Flutter will add a US stock market listing in “late Q4” 2023.
However, even as Flutter saw its US brands bring in 92% more revenue in Q1 2023 than Q1 2022, “sustainability” remained a top bullet point on the earnings report.
FanDuel CEO Amy Howe said in Flutter’s 2022 annual report:
To help mark the American Gaming Association’s Responsible Gaming Education Month, FanDuel proudly held its first-ever Play Well Day, announcing a number of additions to our industry-leading responsible gaming initiatives, including welcoming Amanda Serrano as a Play Well Ambassador, joining Craig Carton. Over 3,000 of our colleagues from across the globe gathered to reaffirm our steadfast commitment to responsible gaming in the US and heard from company and industry leaders on the role our colleagues play every day in creating a culture that encourages customers to Play Well.
As our scale and growth compounds, I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together in 2023 as we remain firmly on track to deliver profitability for the full year.
Today, Flutter announced its year-to-date results, as of June 30.
FanDuel generated $100 million in H1 2023. FanDuel Sportsbook was still No. 1 in the US, with 47% of market share during Q2 2023. Flutter’s online casino and poker brands remained at 23% of market share during Q2 2023. The latter represents a Big Three iGaming position.
Also, US brands reached their “profitability inflection point,” Jackson said. (In other words, they turned a profit.)
Notably, 42% of global players adopting the safer gambling tool that’s part of the Positive Impact Plan.
FanDuel Expects Kutler to Continue That Effort
In the July 24 announcement about Kutler’s appointment, FanDuel said:
Kutler will be responsible for accelerating FanDuel’s responsible gaming (RG) and sustainability strategy reflecting the company’s continued emphasis on building a best-in-class customer protection framework. Kutler will lead the company’s RG organization inclusive of responsible gaming policy and regulatory affairs, RG training and product development, RG operations, and the advocacy teams focused on the company’s Sportsbook, Casino, Racing, Daily Fantasy, and Retail functions. In addition, she will be responsible for FanDuel’s continued sustainability efforts in keeping with parent company Flutter’s (LON: FLTR) Positive Impact Plan.
Based in the District of Columbia, Kutler’s LinkedIn profile shows she spent most of her career inside the Beltway.
Although she most recently worked as a senior vice president of global government affairs for Vancouver-based Dapper Labs, “the company behind CryptoKitties,” she was also active in the US government for years.
Perhaps most notably, from June 2015 to April 2017, Kutler was the chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau and a special advisor to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
However, her resume, which begins in 1992 with the entry “National Advance Staff, Clinton-Gore Presidential Campaign,” continues by listing leadership positions in fields ranging from law to banking.
As FanDuel Group President Christian Genetski puts it in the July 24 announcement about Kutler’s appointment:
We are very fortunate to have a professional of Alison’s caliber join our team in this critical role at such an important time for our company and the industry. Alison has had a distinguished career including 25 years’ experience in high-level government and private sector roles leading business, regulatory, policy, and public affairs strategies.
Kutler Talks to Bonus About Responsible Gaming
Below, the questions from Bonus are in bold. Kutler’s answers follow.
Is responsible gaming getting more attention in 2023?
Responsible gaming has been a priority for FanDuel since Day One.
We understand that we need to build this industry responsibly and that will require collaboration from operators, tech providers, media partners, and of course our regulators. FanDuel is very committed to ensuring that our customers use the platform as a form of entertainment, only wagering what they can afford. We welcome the increased attention responsible gaming is receiving because we believe that to be a good thing. It’s why we work to educate our customers, particularly, in new states on what it means to play responsibly and encourage all customers to set up RG tools like wager and deposit limits.
Our goals, combined with an increased level of attention, will serve as a positive influence to educate customers on the importance of responsible play.
Are problem gambling efforts getting enough funding in legal online gambling states?
That’s really for state lawmakers and regulators to ultimately decide.
We continue to do our part and support public entities including the National Council on Problem Gambling and the International Center for Responsible Gambling. This includes funding problem gambling prevention and research to better understand gambling behavior in the United States. We’re also very focused on our advocacy work in partnership with National RG Ambassador Craig Carton in a number of ways including our college tour where he educates students on the risks associated with betting.
You have an impressive resume, but it doesn’t seem to be in RG. What speaks to you about your new role?
My career has allowed me to work in several heavily regulated industries including banking and more recently blockchain. Additionally, I spent time in two different US administrations and was fortunate to lead efforts in some difficult areas that resulted in meaningful policy changes.
While I’ve not previously worked in the gambling industry, I’m confident my experience will allow me to bring the key constituents together to find commonalities that will drive positive change for the business.
What are your priorities for this role?
I certainly want to have a deeper understanding of FanDuel’s commercial model so that I can evaluate our existing RG strategy and find ways to enhance it with important innovations that protect consumers and our business long-term.
Because FanDuel is an online gambling leader, is its responsible gambling duty greater?
When I think about this question, I go back to an article that was written by the Wall Street Journal in 2022 titled, “FanDuel CEO Amy Howe Wants To Help The Sports-Betting Business Grow Up.” In the article, Amy commented, “I certainly feel a huge sense of obligation,” the obligation Amy is referring to is the responsibility all of us at FanDuel have together. As an industry leader, we must make sure we’re protecting our customers and giving them the tools they need to play responsibly.
In my short time here, I’ve quickly come to learn that all of our colleagues believe that “RG is everyone’s job.” This becomes obvious when you see that we had 100% employee compliance with our RG training and have even created a company-wide “Play Well Day” event where our colleagues from around the world come together both in-person and virtually for seminars on the importance of responsible gaming.
It’s also why we work with Craig (Carton), whom we meet with regularly to discuss how we can lean in and help educate on the importance of responsible play.
Considering your previous job, do you have an opinion on crypto being barred from use in legal iGaming?
FanDuel does not accept cryptocurrency and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
How do you plan to build on FanDuel’s previous responsible gaming work?
There is a great foundation here at FanDuel and a corporate culture where all employees understand the importance of responsible gaming.
I’m going to take the time to really think strategically about what it means to build on that foundation and figure out how we can work together as an industry to ensure that everyone is prioritizing responsible gaming.
Some of this will be internal discussion about how we accelerate RG tool usage and part of it will include investing more in research and advocacy efforts. And of course, we must build coalitions with our regulators, fellow operators, tech, and media partners to strike the correct balance of meaningful policy that protects customers while not stymieing growth.
Should FanDuel emulate Kindred’s Journey Towards Zero?
Through our parent company Flutter, we actually have our own strategy known as our Positive Impact Plan. Flutter announced the Positive Impact Plan in 2022 defining three key areas of focus across its global network of companies including:
- By 2030, we aim to have 75% of our active online customers globally using one or more of our Play Well tools, with over 50% using one or more tools by 2026
- By 2030, we want to create and build teams that are representative of the locations in which we live and work, through a comprehensive DE&I strategy, supported by clear benchmarked goals
- By 2030, we aim to improve the lives of 10 million people using the power of sport and play, the skills of our colleagues, and the reach of our brand
Should operators, suppliers, casinos, and regulators share self-exclusion lists?
This is something that we’d like the industry to work towards as we think it would have many benefits to ensure we’re all doing our part to keep at-risk players off our platforms. However, we understand the complexities here to set up a system that has meaningful criterion while also complying with all privacy and anti-trust laws. I’m optimistic there is a path forward here and eager to begin that journey so that the US marketplace can become a model of RG excellence that other markets will model.
What should Bonus readers know about you?
I’m a native Nebraskan and proud Cornhuskers fan. I’m an avid sports fan, with tennis being my passion.