DraftKings heading to UK, hires gambling-industry veteran to lead expansion

DK bobbles

Fantasy sports provider DraftKings, which recently raised a $300 million round of investment, is delivering on its promise to expand overseas.

The Boston-based company said it has been licensed to operate in the United Kingdom and plans to open a London office by year’s end. Its license from the UK Gambling Commission shows that DraftKings is authorized to operate gambling software and pool betting.

Chief executive Jason Robins previously said that a UK expansion would come in 2015, enabled by the new fund-raising round. On Monday, the company said it also plans to expand to Europe, Asia, and Latin America in 2016.  Newly hired chief international officer Jeffrey Haas, a veteran of the gambling sector with experience in online poker, will lead the expansion.

Expanding to the UK and beyond allows DraftKings to add a new base of players and more games to its fast-paced version of fantasy sports, in which users compile imaginary rosters of real-life athletes and compete to get the best overall statistics.

DraftKings operates in a new niche known as daily fantasy sports, which creates new games daily or weekly in a bid to speed up the gameplay and increase the number of players and prize payouts.

That’s a big change from traditional fantasy sports leagues, which can take weeks or months to pay off as they trace the arc of an entire season.

DraftKings is the second-largest daily fantasy sports operator in the US behind New York-based FanDuel. Although most online gambling is banned under federal law in the United States, Congress has specifically allowed fantasy sports companies to give away cash prizes, based on the the idea that they are games of skill rather than contests of chance.

FanDuel said it plans to pay about $2 billion in prizes this year, while DraftKings expects to award more than $1 billion. The companies typically keep around 10 percent of player fees as revenue, paying the rest in prizes.

The fast-growing companies have attracted big names in sports and media as investors. DraftKings’ latest financing round was led by Fox Sports, with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and the Kraft Group, owners of the New England Patriots, also investing. FanDuel’s financial backers include NBC Sports, Comcast Ventures, and the NBA.