Closing Bell

FanDuel, Carton promoting responsible gambling

By Bill King

FanDuel has tapped WFAN afternoon drive host and recovering problem gambler Craig Carton to promote responsible gambling, developing content, making appearances in newly legalized states and serving as an advisor on the company’s senior-level responsible gambling steering committee. Carton, who returned to the station last October after serving a 3 1/2 year sentence for fraudulently selling concert tickets to cover his gambling debts, since January has hosted a weekly Saturday morning WFAN show and Audacy podcast that focuses on problem gambling.

That show, “Hello, My Name is Craig,” attracted the interest of FanDuel, which has made a series of moves this year in an effort to establish itself as an industry leader in responsible gambling as sports betting is legalized in many states. “We’ve made a lot of investments internally in our process, in our technology, in our marketing and in our communications,” said FanDuel Group CMO Mike Raffensperger, “but we realized we need partnerships and we need additional voices in this space to bring humanity to what this is and why it matters.”

Carton will serve as the face of FanDuel’s “safer play” messages on the responsible gambling sections of its web site and app, creating audio and video content around his story and those of other problem gamblers, which will be shared on both FanDuel and Audacy platforms and promoted on shared social channels. He also will promote FanDuel’s responsible gambling tools, including wager and deposit limits and cooling-off periods, and serve as a consultant on FanDuel’s responsible gambling strategies and messages. He joins Raffensperger, FanDuel interim CEO Amy Howe, Chief Risk Officer Carolyn Renzin and Chief Product Officer Sarah Butterfass on the company’s RG steering committee.

Carton said he initially was skeptical when FanDuel approached him. Sports betting is the leading advertising category at Audacy sports radio stations in every legalized market. Last year, Audacy signed a six-year sponsorship deal that makes FanDuel the network’s official sportsbook. “Frankly, I (listened) somewhat cockeyed, not knowing if they were serious about it at first,” said Carton, whose addiction to casino blackjack pre-dated New Jersey’s legal sportsbooks. “I do have a big platform with a lot of listeners. Was this just another way to market the product to people to gamble? And I pleasantly found out that it’s important to them and is a core part of their business.”

FanDuel began to amplify its approach to responsible gambling in March when it became the first sportsbook to join the American Gaming Association’s “Have a Game Plan” RG public service campaign. Later in the month, it announced that it would make Gamban gambling site blocking services available to customers for free. Its next step is the development of AI models that can predict problem gambling behavior, Raffensperger said, using the same data the company uses to identify how to best target and engage customers.

Raffensperger was working with Audacy on how to best incorporate more responsible gambling content into the sportsbook’s sponsorship when they landed on approaching Carton. “We talked about how we could have partnerships -- not just promotionally, where we work with their talent to talk about odds boosts and risk-free bets and special promotions, but how can we do something meaningful in the RG space,” Raffensperger said. “Craig, given his personal history in this category and his passion for helping move this category forward, was really a natural fit.”

Carton, who was featured last year in an HBO documentary about his downfall, said he sees responsible gambling work as a counterbalance to the commercial spots and promotions now flooding sports talk radio in newly legalized and still growing states. “I made a pledge to the men and women I went to rehab with that if I ever got the chance to be back on the radio or TV, I would use that platform to become the face of responsible gambling,” Carton said. “I made that promise and this is the fruition of that promise. I’m going to do what I said I would do and use my story to help other people.”

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