Underdog ready to ‘do more’ with its North Carolina sportsbook launch

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The last time Underdog founder and Co-CEO Jeremy Levine spoke with SBC Americas, he hinted that sports betting was in the company’s future. Today, that day is here.

Underdog has launched Underdog Sportsbook in North Carolina and the industry will get a first glimpse of how the fantasy sports company will bring its feel and flavor to a new vertical.

“It’s gonna be clean and simple. And the easiest way for sports fans in America to express their opinion on sports they love,” Levine told SBC Americas last week.

While many critics of the DFS+ industry claim they are operating as de facto sportsbooks, when asked what he is most excited about with this launch, Levine said it was the freedom of what sportsbook operators are allowed to do.

“Part of the reason we’re really excited to get into sports betting is because there is a lot that we are not allowed to do in fantasy. With sports betting, we can do more. And because we can do more, we can provide a better experience for sports fans in America.”

The aspirations of sports betting for Levine and Underdog predate the company even forming. Levine said the plan was always to start with fantasy and to expand. With that long-term view on growth, Underdog put an extraordinary amount of time and effort into developing its sports betting tech.

“We’ve spent the last three years building the backend technology. When this product launches on Monday, I am pretty sure will be the first sportsbook to launch in America on entirely its own core tech stack,” Levine noted. “And that is no small feat. That’s the focus of what we’ve done for the last three-plus years. And that’s going to allow us now to build really fast and launch innovative products for our customers faster than I think anyone will have ever seen in the space before.”

North Carolina is an obvious choice as a debut state for Underdog. For starters, it is the only state launching sports betting in 2024. Levine pointed out other advantages to the market though.

“Think about the customer and sports fan in North Carolina. Well, they haven’t likely bet on a sportsbook before, they are way more likely to have played fantasy with us,” he said. “And so if you think about the experience for them, our interface is going to be clean and simple, what they’re more used to and very different from a traditional sportsbook.”

Some operators, like Penn, have market share goals that will define their success. Levine is reticent to put numbers on handle performance and wants to focus on the product for now.

“Success is all about making sure customers love it progressively more with every feature we release. We’re going to be building a bunch of new stuff that’s different than what they’ve ever seen. Way better search. Social personalization. And a big principle of what we’re building is games, not transactions.”

North Carolina is the first state to get a glimpse of the gamified Underdog sports betting experience. Where Underdog goes from here is still a bit of a mystery. When asked directly about what was next, Levine’s answer hints that it will likely be another new state versus an established market.

“You tell me based on the [legislative] hearings you’re listening to.”