The iGaming Show - EP 9 (Super Bowl In Ontario's iGaming Market With FanDuel’s Alannah Della Vedova)
One of the biggest and most popular sporting events in North America, the Super Bowl, is on its way. With the addition of Ontario’s regulated iGaming market, it is surely going an impactful event for sports bettors in the province. In this episode, we will discuss the significance of the first Super Bowl in Ontario’s regulated gaming market from an operator’s point of view.
The iGaming Show, presented by Paramount Commerce, is a podcast that will analyze gaming industry trends with experts from various gaming organizations.
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Full episode transcript:
Varad Mehta: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the 9th episode of The iGaming Show,presented by Paramount Commerce. I’m your host, Varad Mehta. And in this podcast, we analyze gaming industry trends with experts from various gaming organizations. In today’s episode, we will discuss the significance of the first Super Bowl in Ontario’s regulated iGaming market with Alannah Della Vedova, the Director of Content Activations and Brand at FanDuel. So, without further ado, let’s get the show rolling. Okay, so, Alannah, how we begin this podcast is by asking you a few fun questions. So I have lined up four fun questions before we go into the topic of discussion today. So the first question is, what is the toughest song you can play on the guitar?
Alannah Della Vedova: That is funny. Did you actually know that I play the guitar?
VM: I looked it up.
AD: You looked it up? I appreciate it. I am not the greatest guitar player, I will admit. So I think the toughest song I learned how to play, Hotel California, that took me. Yeah, I feel like good guitarists will belike, oh, that’s a walk in the park. But for me, my dad was a huge Eagles fan, so I had to learn.
VM: That’s not an easy song. That’s a tough song.
AD: It is a tough song, especially if you’re actually bringing in some of the vibratos and stuff like that. It’s not easy, at least for me.
VM: I and a lot of people envy you, for sure. The second question is, if you were a student at Hogwarts, which house do you think the Sorting Hat would put you in and why?
AD: So bias, I obviously want to be part of Hufflepuff. I thought Hufflepuff was such an underrated house. I think I would fit so well with them. They just seem chill. Hufflepuff was casual. They didn’t really get into the dynamics and the chaos of what was going on at Hogwarts. So I would go with Hufflepuff.
VM: Yeah, I like that one. Number three, if I were to visit The Kouzzina, what is one dish I should try from there?
AD: I mean, you can’t go wrong with the gnocchi. I am a huge gnocchi eater, so any type not to really show my Italian, but, like, they have the gnocchi with gorgonzola, and it’s like a blue cheese, and it’s amazing.
VM: Okay, so I’m a big foodie, so I will definitely look into that.
AD: Yeah, just gnocchi in general. You can’t go wrong with potato dumplings.
VM: I like that. And the last one is, what is one important thing rowing has taught you?
AD: Wow. That’s a fantastic question because there’s tons. So I’m trying to think of one and stick to the script here. But I think teamwork, even if you row a single, which I have done, I rowed singles. I rowed quads. I rowed crew. In general, you’re still part of a team. You’re never one person out there. You’re accountable to your coaches. You’re accountable to your other crew members around the boathouse. And those people are really your support system, especially if you have a tough day on the water. It’s your team that kind of picks you up and makes you feel good about yourself and know that you can keep going. So the team aspect of it, and then especially rowing in a crew, is the big one because you’re all in unison, if you’re not rowing as one person, you’re not a team and that boat is not stable and you’re not going anywhere.
VM: It’s so true. We watched it during the Olympics and it’s so easy to just sit on a couch and be like, oh, what is that? But when we actually looked into it, I was like, this is crazy tough. I was like, what if one person misses a beat? They’re gone.
AD: It’s so true. And that’s what’s amazing about Olympic rowing, is that the fact that people who don’t do it, or even me, as someone who’s obviously not an Olympian, if it looks easy, that means it’s very tough. Like if it looks hard, it’s like, oh God, they’re not doing a ton of work it’s kind of the inverse. So yeah, anything that looks like it’s a seamless experience on TV those people have been training their butts off for decades.
VM: I love it. This is a good question, even I wanted to know. So how about…
AD: Come down the boat house anytime. Open invitation. I could take you out in a double. It’ll be great.
VM: I don’t think I’m physically fit yet, but I’ll get some exercise going, then I’ll join you. For sure. I like this. So maybe we go into the topic of discussion today, but before we do, I’d like to know more about you, maybe your professional history and how you made your way towards the iGaming industry.
AD: For sure. So I graduated from Laurentian’s School of Sports Administration. So very proud to be an LU Grad and always loved sports. It’s cliche to say. Everyone who works in sports always has that I was an athletic kid, but I was. And that’s kind of what gravitated me towards the program and what gravitated me towards the industry. So started off n some smaller roles in some smaller organizations, but then landed at Rogers and loved it there. It was such an amazing time to beat Rogers with all of the great sports properties that I got to work on the Blue Jays. That was the time when they got the NHL rights. We had so much tennis, we had so much going on. And then as kind of cannabis started to emerge, I was like, what is this really interesting industry that’s coming online here? So hopped into that with two feet and that was really interesting to build into two businesses. So long winded way to say the complexities of just marketing and regulated industries. That really is what drives me. I think it’s so interesting to be in a world like sports betting that marries how I’ve grown up through cannabis and regulations and understanding what it means to keep consumers and Canadians safe within these industries. And then marrying all of kind of my previous history from sports and passions and all of that. So it was just such an interesting storm. So when it was announced that it was coming to Ontario in Canada at large, it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t give up.
VM: I love that. So you were sporty and then you made your way into something that is absolutely consumed by sports. So it’s just a perfect marriage somehow.
AD: It was really serendipitous. I think I was very thoughtful too. And cannabis was one of those things I’m like, this is cool, I want to go try it. When I heard about sports betting and the iGaming industry, I said, okay, I need to be part of this. This is such an amazing moment in time for the innovation of sport in general. There’s very few moments where you can innovate in such a large capacity and this was one of them. And so it was a home run for me. There’s going to be a lot of sports puns and innuendos in this podcast, actually.
VM: That’s okay. We’re all good here. Then I think you’re the perfect person to ask this to because I think you knowing the nature of sports and the importance of sports, this will be the first Super Bowl in Ontario’s regulated iGaming market. So can you talk about the significance of that? Because it’s a big deal.
AD: Yeah, it’s huge. And I think even outside of regulation, it’s phenomenal. I believe last year was about 8.2 million people tuned into the Super Bowl was the biggest broadcasted event across CTV and TSN. So just the event itself and the magnitude of it is wild now layering in a really new and innovative and different experience for fans to really get involved in however way they want. I think for us, we’re super excited with what we’ve done and how we’ve connected consumers to a game in a really new way. And they have the option too, because putting my responsible gaming hat on as well, they have the option to consume this as much as they want, as little as they want. And that’s what’s also important is that we’ve provided a platform for them to do something and they can make their own choices in an environment they control. If you look at even the US, like, I believe it was the American Gaming Association came out a couple of days ago that 50 million Americans will bet on the Super Bow land that’s going to be about $16 billion dollars. So there is a lot, there is a lot going on and we’re just really excited to see what’s going to happen. In its first, like you mentioned, like first legal Super Bowl, to put it loosely, really interested to see how Monday morning shapes out.
VM: No, for sure. Are there any learnings from maybe the States that FanDuel has taken in or your team has taken in when coming into Ontario? Because it’s not the same as the States, right? It’s a little bit different to cater to a Canadian audience.
AD: For sure. I think for us, preparation is the key to success. That is the one thing we’ve really learned from our US counterparts. One of the many things, I should say. But they start planning for the Super Bowl a week after the Super Bowl is concluded for the following year. So very methodical in their approach of how can they elevate the experience for customers. And we take that approach too, like, let’s learn, reiterate, and evolve on what we’ve done in previous years and ensure that we’re bringing everything to the next level. And then also ensuring that everyone understands our responsible gaming tools, everyone understands where they can go to place bets that are even outside of what we offer. We have a lot of amazing novelty markets. So for those who want to try sports betting, but don’t necessarily kind of understand the X’s and O’s of football as much as their other friends and teammates and colleagues and everything like that, you can bet on the coin toss, the colour of the Gatorade. So there’s some softer points of entry for fans, which is really unique to Ontario. We’re really the only province who get to do something like that and cater to a wide variety of needs from sports fans.
VM: I also saw that FanDuel has tied up with I always pronounce his name wrong…
AD: Rob Gronkowski.
VM: Yes, thank you. I see the prep that FanDuel has been doing. Can you maybe go more into that? Because you get the vibe going with stuff like that, right?
AD: Yeah. The Kick of Destiny is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It’s FanDuel’s very first. I believe it’s their very first Super Bowl commercial, at least for us in Canada, but the very first live commercial ever, I think. So it’s such a momentous occasion for our brand. And to have Rob, who normally catches and doesn’t kick, be an ambassador for us and really make this kick happen and be so enthusiastic about it as well. He’s been training. It’s funny, you see the lead-up videos where he’s training with (Adam) Vinatieri and it’s all fun and it’s the workout montages, but behind the scenes, that’s actually what’s going on. He’s really looking to nail this kick, and he’s super confident, and he’s been tremendous to work with. He’s been great to our whole FanDuel team. So that’s something that we’re super, super proud of. It’s something different that fans can get excited about and involved in. Any fan can enjoy the hype and conversation around if Gronk is going to make this kick or not. So part of the preparation and going into Super Bowl was totally getting Rob and all of these amazing commercials and things like that on air to really show what FanDuel is capable of and what kind of experience we can bring.
VM: You know, my friend came up to me and he’s like, you know what FanDuel is doing? Because he knows we’re payment processors and we work with iGaming and sports betting merchants. Are you aware of this? I’m like, yeah, I saw it. It’s pretty cool. So I was like, yeah, I had to bring that up. I saw it too.
AD: Yeah, I know. All of my friends are calling me and asking if I talk to Rob on the phone every day. And I was like, yeah, we’re best friends. Come on. I was like, no, of course I don’t talk to him every day. I was like, maybe one day. But yeah, he’s not coming to my birthday party anytime soon. But I’m sure if I just extended an invite, he’d be okay with it.
VM: Yeah, I like that. I think you touched upon something really important at the beginning of our conversation. Is even next month, I think in Ontario we have something linked with responsible gaming awareness happening. So maybe could you go into that and how you’ve incorporated responsible gaming initiatives during a big day like this?
AD: Yes, it’s really at the heart of everything we do, even before this big day, very proud that we were one of the, if not the only operator who launched with Responsible Gaming. We had a 30 second spot even before we kind of came out with our huge brand campaigns and whatnot, just introducing fans to our responsible gaming tools. And also very proud to say that 13% of our base and growing actually uses these. They set deposit limits, they set timing. They are very conscious in how they want to experience our platforms. So going into it, it’s just always a constant reminder. We’ll be running RG ads during Super Bowl to remind people of the tools that we have, as well as through some of our CRM and marketing. It’s always just, hey, play, have a great time, but let’s be safe and conscious. And at the end of the day, the power is in your hands. You control the environment, not us. So ensuring everyone’s reminded of that. We continue to really think of innovative ways that we can even up our responsible gaming. People talk about innovation with the fact of product and new betting markets, and all of that is super important. But at the crux of it, if you don’t have a good foundation and a secure net for your customers in Ontario and Canadian sports fans, I think that’s probably a detriment overall to your experience.
VM: I like that. It’s an important thing to incorporate when especially when we take into account like, big sporting events such as the Super Bowl. Taking a look at the numbers that iGaming Ontario released over the last three quarters, we’ve seen that more players are engrossed, and many people are joining in into iGaming. And taking into account that there will be a lot of traffic or a lot of people just going at it on the Super Bowl. Are there any different technologies you’ve maybe gotten ready on the FanDuel platform to take in that traffic or make sure that consumers have a really good experience, like payments being one of them or something else? Responsible gaming is a good one to have initiatives ready for your consumers.
AD: Yeah. Tech stability is a big one for us, so we have a very dedicated technology team who every day is just running stability tests and ensuring that our platform is ready to receive all this traffic. That’s the main thing we need to have our app ready and available when people want to jump on. So that, as part of the preparation, has been months and months in advance of really running tests and ensuring that we’re ready to go day one. And then payments, for sure. I mean, we’re always listening to our customers with regards to payments and method of payment because we know that just fast payments is one of the reasons why they choose FanDuel and obviously the reasons that get them to stick around with us. And at the end of the day, it’s your money, so you want to withdraw it, you have every right to do so. We recently introduced Amex, which is a big one for us, so we have INTERAC and Mastercard and just ensuring that we have a variety of payment methods just to suit consumer needs. I think that’s at the forefront. So we do a lot of survey, a lot of listening, a lot of customer interviews. What do you want to see? What are we missing in our core offering, especially around payments? And we’ll slowly start to trickle those out as we hear more of what maybe your gaps are. So Amex is kind of the big one and super excited about launching that.
VM: Okay, nice. Before I go into my last question, I have to ask you, who do you have a personal bias for, the Chiefs or the Eagles?
AD: I have a very big personal bias for the Eagles. I like Jalen Hurts. I like the whole story about the Eagles. I think they are the better team. Patrick Mahomes brother kind of annoys me on TikTok. That is like a big reaction that is very much like an irrational reason not to like the Chiefs. But I can’t get over it. I was like, I see Patrick Mahomes, who’s arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks. He is fantastic, especially for his age and what he’s been able to accomplish. But I was just like, your brother, man, you’ve got to get him off social media. I can’t do it. So, yeah, I’ll be cheering for the Eagles. There’s also a diehard Eagles fan in our office, so I want him to have his day. I’m a Packers fan. And our day came and went a long time ago and now we’re just trying to figure out what Aaron Rodgers next move is. So, yeah, I’m on the birds.
VM: No, definitely. Repping the underdog. It was a tough year for the Packers this year I feel. A tough season for them.
AD: Oh, I feel like we need a whole separate podcast for this one. Yeah, I was like, how much time do you have on the Packers? But yeah, I’m ready for Jordan Love era. I will say that. I feel like Packers fans are divided with regards to like, do they want Aaron? Do they want Jordan? And what’s going on here? I’m done with Aaron Rodgers at this point and I’m ready for the rebuild. And I know it’s going to be a few rocky years of not making the playoffs, but at the end of the day, it’s the Green Bay Packers. You can’t go wrong. Yeah, you can’t go wrong. They’re bound to come back. There’s tons of history there. So, yeah, we’ll see what happens with them.
VM: Okay, perfect. So we have a prediction by Alannah. She has said Eagles. So let’s see how that goes. I think everyone who’s going to be joining me for the Super Bowl, I think everyone is biased towards the Chiefs. Interesting. Everyone loves Patrick Holmes.
AD: Remind me to email you when the Eagles win.
VM: If Chiefs win, I’m just going to write Chiefs in an email and send it to you.
AD: Yeah, right. Just a whole bunch of exclamations.
VM: Just going to my last question, I wanted to know what is next for you and the FanDuel team? Obviously, this is a big day coming up. Then obviously in March you have important things in Ontario, like I mentioned, that I think overall in Canada we have something related to responsible gaming awareness, obviously. And then we have March Madness. So anything special you are working on with the FanDuel team?
AD: There’s always something special going on. I mean, TSN, as I mentioned, is such a big integral partner of ours and they’ve been fantastic in how we’ve prepped for the Super Bowl and the integrations that we’ve created with them. So continuing that work. Like you mentioned, into March Madness, continuing the NHL and NBA seasons and really bringing it for the playoffs of those two leagues, the show must go on. So it’s never ending here with us and even working with MLSE. So there’s a lot of really cool innovations and things like that that we’re going to bring to the forefront with TSN to really enhance the betting experience. And we’ll leave it at that. But very excited for what’s next. I don’t think our work stops at Super Bowl. We might take a quick break on Monday. But continuing the work and really figuring out even outside of betting, like, what is truly interesting content for sports fans? What do sports fans want to consume? How do they want to interact with us? All of that great research work as well. We’re also continuing to really have a truly differentiated offering.
VM: I love that. I think we’ll definitely be in touch. Hopefully next time FanDuel or you do something exciting, I’d love to talk to you. I want to thank you so much and it’s so amazing to meet someone so interesting who plays guitar, who loves sports. I don’t want to say a big Harry Potter fan, but like a good amount of Harry Potter fan.
AD: It’s funny that you mentioned because I’m actually going to see the Cursed Child play on Saturday. So I haven’t seen it yet. So I am a fan and I am going to continue that fandom this weekend.
VM: I’m repping Harry Potter. I don’t know if you can see it’s Platform nine and three quarters. I’m a big fan too, so it’s good to meet another fan. But Alannah I want to thank you for your time. I hope whoever listens to this, they understand the complexity and the importance of this Super Bowl, especially in Ontario, and the crazy amount of work that operators such as FanDuel have to do in the background. So thank you so much. May the Chiefs win, I’ll be in touch with you soon. Thank you so much.
AD: Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
VM: Thank you. With the addition of Ontario’s regulated iGaming market and the popularity of NFL amongst Canadians, this Super Bowl is set to be an exciting one. I want to thank Alannah Della Vedova, the Director of Content Activations and Brand at FanDuel, for joining us today and providing her expertise. If you have any questions for us or Alannah, then definitely comment them down below. Please don’t forget to like, share and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thank you for tuning into The iGaming Show. I’m your host, Varad Mehta. And until next time, keep gaming.