The number of sports and competitions available to bettors continues to grow in the U.S., and on Friday, DraftKings announced an unusual deal with the Drone Racing League.
Tennessee, off to a fast start in mobile sports betting since launching in November 2020, is among five states where regulators have approved wagering on the DRL. The others are New Jersey, Colorado, West Virginia, and New Hampshire — with more pending approval, according to DRL officials.
DRL’s final drone races of the 2020-21 DRL Allianz World Championship Season — the fifth for the league — will kick off on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC, Twitter, and Facebook.
DraftKings has made strides in the emerging eSports category, and drone racing offers appeal to a similarly young audience.
According to the DRL, consumer research indicates drone racing fans are three times more likely to place a bet than fans of major sports leagues — and 90 percent more likely to be interested in sports betting than the typical sports fan.
DK’s initial drone racing offerings paid off
DraftKings initially introduced DRL drone races to its customers as a free-to-play pool during the earlier stage of the 2020 season, and it drew 30 percent more entries in its first week than is typical for new sports, with more than 150,000 entries to date.
“DRL is scaling their business as fast as their drone races, and we’re excited to be flying with them given DRL’s thrilling, innovative racing events are perfect for the customized wagering offerings we can create,” said Ezra Kucharz, chief business officer for DraftKings, in a statement. “Our expertise in sports betting combined with DRL’s stats-packed competition will make this a fun and seamless opportunity to engage their avid audience along with tech-savvy, adrenaline-loving sports fans.”
In the leadup to DRL’s final drone race of the season on Saturday, DraftKings and DRL are hosting “Pre-Flight Shows,” including Friday at 7 p.m. ET on Twitter, where expert sports bettors and elite drone pilots will educate fans on how to participate.
The partnership gives DraftKings exclusive marketing rights in DRL sports betting and branding integrations including custom gates. Pre-race wagers and in-race live bets are available for fans in approved states to engage in before and during the high-flying action.
“The sky is now the limit for DRL fans to get ‘skin in the game,’ and we’re thrilled to partner with DraftKings to transform our high-speed race competition into the ultimate sport to bet on,” said DRL President Rachel Jacobson in a statement. “The opportunity for us to elevate our engagement through all forms of gaming and gambling will only increase, as mobile betting becomes more adopted across the country.”
How drone racing works
With similarities to video game competitions, the DRL’s 12 pilots compete in 16 levels, advancing their overall standing based on the points awarded for their finish. The pilot with the most points at the end of the season wins.
The custom-built drones travel up to 90 mph “across virtual and physical competition” and “in legendary locations including sports arenas, historic palaces, and landmark museums around the globe.”
The competition takes place in the DRL SIM, a drone racing simulator available on XBOX and STEAM.
Top pilots navigate virtual versions of custom, high-speed DRL Racer4 drones, flying through neon-bright courses — all from home.
As the DRL puts it, “the track may be virtual, but physics, the controller movements, and racing are real.”