Sports

DraftKings CEO says there was record interest in NFL Draft as company debuts on Nasdaq

Key Points
  • DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said the company saw record betting volume on the NFL Draft ahead of its debut Friday on the Nasdaq.
  • "It was a really big betting event relative to prior years," Robins said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." 
  • "It shows that there's pent-up demand. People want football. People want traditional sports," he added. 
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DraftKings CEO Jason Robins on going public through three-way merger

DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said the company saw record betting volume on the NFL Draft ahead of DraftKings' debut Friday on the Nasdaq

"It was a really big betting event relative to prior years," Robins said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "It shows that there's pent-up demand. People want football. People want traditional sports. I think when you do see a return to play, it's going to be a really, really big deal for the country."  

The lack of traditional sports due to the coronavirus "certainly" has impacted revenues for the daily fantasy sports company and bookmaker, Robins said. "But e-sports has been absolutely exploding."

"We've also seen alternative sports like table tennis really start to pick up in popularity," he added. 

DraftKings, which will trade under the ticker DKNG, became public through a three-way merger that involves a special purpose acquisition company, or blank-check company. It announced its plans to go public through the SPAC in December.

SBTech, a betting and gaming technology company, was the third party in the merger. The SPAC, launched by veteran Hollywood executives, went public in May. It had been called Diamond Eagle Acquisition. 

Shares of DraftKings were up more than 8% on Friday to around $19 per share. 

Robins said DraftKings, as it discussed last year plans about going public, recognized there could be volatility in the stock market — although they were not predicting a pandemic would be its cause. 

He said that is one reason why going public through SPAC worked well for the company. 

"From a mechanical standpoint, this was really more like closing an M&A transaction," he said. "We had a very clear measuring stick. We knew where the stock was trading, so we felt good about closing the transaction right now." 

Robins said it is difficult to forecast DraftKings' revenues because the company cannot predict how long major U.S. sports leagues are out of action. 

"We do see that there are other things customers are engaging with," he said, noting that it offered free-to-play pools for episodes of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Survivor" on CBS, for example.

He said it also saw strong participation in a trivia game for Netflix's "Tiger King."  

"We're finding ways to engage customers, and we all hope that traditional sports will return soon," Robins said. 

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Rishe: I wouldn't be surprised if NFL draft viewership surpassed 10 million