By Ellen M. Zavian
Stacie Stern is often referred to as the “First Lady of Fantasy Sports.” The moniker is well-deserved. After spending 16 years at Head2Head, she joined FanDuel in 2017, taking a position in the government affairs department in 2017. Her rise at the largest real-money gaming operator in the United States has been swift, in part because of her willingness to tackle the hottest topics in a fast-changing industry. My Legal Bookie caught up with the Government Affairs Director to discuss March Madness sports betting and how it relates to college athletes.
Question: As you travel to state legislatures around the country, what is your goal at each stop?
Answer: My focus is to help legislators learn about the current state of unregulated sports wagering so that they have the information to develop “reasonable laws.” Principles such as a mobile, competitive market with multiple operators as well as an expansive betting catalog, including allowing wagering on college sports, are imperative for success in converting people to a regulated market. It’s important for states to legalize sports betting so it can be taxed and regulated while providing consumers with protections and responsible gambling tools.
Q: The University of Colorado just partnered with a gaming company, PointsBet. Can you explain the relationship and how it might change the landscape for other colleges seeking similar sponsorship deals?
A: The partnership between PointsBet and the University of Colorado is an educational partnership in addition to what we’ve seen with a traditional sponsorship deal, presenting a potential roadmap for universities in states with regulated sports betting. The University of Colorado has a forward-thinking AD in Rick George, who understands the popularity of betting on college sports. He believes there is an opportunity to educate the student-athletes about protecting the integrity of their games as well as a potential career development path for some students.
Q: What other areas does the PointsBet deal address that will help athletes at March Madness, such a high-profile tournament, where a great deal of betting takes place?
A: The University of Colorado’s commitment to educate its student-athletes about wagering on college sports and potential illicit activity is a great case study. Athletes need to be aware about potential pitfalls, intimidation, threats, etc.… and it’s important to share and communicate anything that could be nefarious activity. March Madness/the NCAA tournament is a great opportunity to have a conversation with all student athletes and raise awareness about how to report if approached or see something worrisome.
Q: Hypothetically, March Madness attracts a great deal of wagering, from the seasoned better to the inexperienced fan. What if a player misses a shot and they get knocked out of the Tournament…and a fan reaches out on social media to ‘blame’ the athlete for his/her miss?
A: Candidly, this is something we see across all sports as social media becomes more prevalent in how we and customers interact with athletes. Obviously, we do not condone any fans barraging an athlete for not doing well in March Madness. These athletes have spent years dreaming about being on the ‘big stage’. We work with our customers and fans who wager on any game to educate on their responsibility to these young athletes. Intimidating a young player while they are playing on one of the biggest days of their life will only hurt the industry, as a whole.
Q: What is a possible solution?
A: The stakeholders, companies, colleges, and sports teams can all work together to educate fans and deter them from threatening athletes on social media. The athlete educational courses could also include training on ‘weathering’ the storm of bad social media posts against them.
Q: How has FanDuel prepared for March Madness’ “prop betting” (a bet on an individual occurrence within a game)?
A: Right now, there are 11 states that do not have any restrictions on college sports wagering. We focus on keeping an open dialogue with states, working with regulators as they discuss things like ‘prop betting’. What we do know is college prop bets are very popular and offering them on a legal market helps to eliminate some of the illegal activity that might occur or has occurred in the past.
See Stacie’s answer to the following question on YouTube ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4sBILcngOM&t=2s):
With these changes along with the legal landscape focusing on state-by-state laws being passed in the gaming space, how will March Madness look different this year?