DraftKings, FanDuel bring on agency support in daily fantasy sports fight

Both firms have hired agencies as they prepare for a legal battle to operate in New York State.

(Image via FanDuel's Facebook page)

NEW YORK: DraftKings has brought on Sard Verbinnen & Co. and FanDuel has tapped Glover Park Group for assistance as they go up against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman issued a cease-and-desist order to the two companies this week demanding they stop taking wagers from New York State residents.

Sard and Glover Park were brought onboard to assist the rival companies in the past month, a source with knowledge of the matter told PRWeek on Thursday.

Schneiderman announced on Tuesday that he was ordering the two daily fantasy sports companies to stop taking bets from residents of his state, saying they are running illegal gambling operations and not games of chance, according to state law.

The two platforms vowed to fight the order in court, with FanDuel’s chief executive telling media outlets that daily fantasy sports sites are games of skill, not chance, and therefore not gambling. He said 600,000 New York residents are customers of his business, according to media reports.

DraftKings also said in a statement that it plans to "pursue this fight to the fullest."

The two websites both emailed members this week, encouraging them to contact the attorney general’s office with complaints. Under the banner of the "Fantasy Sports for All" coalition, they also encouraged customers to attend a Friday morning rally outside of Schneiderman’s Manhattan office.

The Fantasy Sports for All website also asks visitors to add their first and last names, email addresses, and ZIP Codes to a petition.

"Ask anyone who plays, and they’ll tell you the same thing: they do this because they love it. I personally oppose any measure that would move to take away that experience by restricting paid fantasy sports," the petition page reads. "And to anyone looking to end this game, I say: let us play!"

MarketWatch reported on Thursday that major financial institutions were evaluating whether to continue their business relationships with the two websites. The sites are already barred from operating by law in Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, and Washington State.

FanDuel comms director Justine Sacco declined to comment on the situation. Representatives from Sard Verbinnen, Glover Park, and DraftKings did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

The practices of the two websites came under the microscope last month after a series of critical articles examining their businesses. Both DraftKings and FanDuel stressed the integrity of their fantasy sports websites in response to critical articles in The New York Times that explained how an employee of one platform could make large sums of money on the other in a practice akin to "insider trading."

One article alleged a DraftKings employee inadvertently released data before NFL games kicked off at 1 pm EST that Sunday, then won $350,000 playing on FanDuel.

The report noted an employee of one company could use information not publicly available to gain an advantage over other paying customers on a similar service.

Shortly thereafter, DraftKings pushed back against the report, saying the scenario laid out in the Times was not possible. FanDuel also said at the time that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.

The two companies also have partnerships with a host of major sports organizations, including Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and NASCAR. NFL owners Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots have stakes in DraftKings.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is monitoring the situation. Late last month, his counterpart at Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, said he was "comfortable with the idea that it’s not gaming," according to the Sporting News.

Earlier this year, DraftKings moved to boost its comms capabilities. In July, it brought on DJE Holdings’ United Entertainment Group to help it increase brand awareness by "going beyond sports pages." United Entertainment Group was created as a joint venture last October among Edelman parent company DJE, United Talent Agency, and Jarrod Moses, who founded UEG in 2007.

Earlier this year, DraftKings brought on former NASCAR marcomms exec Sabrina Macias to serve as its first full-time communications director.

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