Investors at venture capital firm Scottish Equity Partners decided not to back homegrown fantasy sports business FanDuel because it was too much of a risk, one of the fund’s founding partners told Business Insider.
Since its incorporation in 1991, Scottish Equity Partners has backed more than 100 UK companies but it shied away from Edinburgh unicorn FanDuel, which is now valued above $1 billion.
Stuart Paterson, a partner at Scottish Equity Partners, told Business Insider in London that FanDuel “was on quite a fine line between skill-based gaming and gambling” that meant “it was a risk that investors couldn’t take.”
Online gambling is illegal in several major jurisdictions globally, including the US.
Founded in 2009, FanDuel has a betting platform that entices sports fans into creating fantasy teams for US sports that can be pitched against strangers. The platform — used by five million people and operational in 40 US states — has proved incredibly popular with NFL (football), NBA (basketball), MLB (baseball), and NHL (ice hockey) fans.
“There probably does need to be some regulation [around fantasy sports betting]. Hopefully there is,” said Paterson. “Maybe the prizes need to be limited. Hopefully they can work their way through it and get a regulatory environment that supports it.”
Paterson’s fund has been used to back other fast-growing Scottish technology, including travel booking site Skyscanner, which is situated in the same office as FanDuel.
Fortunately for FanDuel, which is relatively unknown in the UK, a number of other investors have been willing to take a punt on it, with Google Capital, Time Warner Investments and Turner Sports taking part in this summer’s $275 million (£176 million) round, bringing total investment in the company up to $361 million (£234 million.)
Last year, Techworld said FanDuel took $600 million (£390 million) in bets and kept $60 million (£40 million) of that as profit.
Investors in FanDuel will be watching the company closely as it goes head-to-head in courts across the US with regulators who believe the company is guilty of illegal gambling.
Last month, New York state attorney-general Eric Schneiderman insisted that FanDuel and rival DraftKings be terminated, accusing them of operating gambling companies without a licence. The pair argued their case in New York last week.
Class action lawsuits are already being assembled in several states that will seek to reclaim money lost to “illegal” bookmakers, the British broadsheet stated.
FanDuel is being sued in a court in Tennessee for $10 million (£6.6 million), while a DraftKings employee is facing accusations of insider trading after winning $350,000 (£233,000) through FanDuel competitions.
Jason Trost, the US-born co-founder of online betting exchange Smarkets, told The Sunday Times: “It’s very possible that Americans will get rid of this completely.”
Back in 2011, for instance, US prosecutors indicted 11 executives at three online poker sites for running internet gambling operations in America. The cases have yet to come to trial.
FanDuel’s latest legal battles triggered The Sunday Times to run a piece titled “Unicorn to Unicorpse?” last month.
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