Cookstown tycoon withdraws fantasy football FanDuel site from UK market
A Northern Ireland tycoon has closed his UK gaming site just a year after its launch, it has emerged. Cookstown man Nigel Eccles has become one of richest men from Northern Ireland thanks to the success of his company FanDuel, which now has six million customers playing its games in the US alone.
Last year, he revealed to the Belfast Telegraph that he was rolling out his fantasy football UK business, along with other sports.
FanDuel is an online fantasy sports game focused on American football, basketball, ice-hockey and baseball.
But now the company has said it will "not be offering contests in the UK this season" in order to focus on its US business.
In a statement on its website, the company said: "Unfortunately, we will not be offering contests in the UK this season. We hope to be back in the future, bringing you more of the games you love."
A spokeswoman also said in a statement: "We will not be operating our UK product this upcoming EPL (Premier League) season to focus on our product in the US.
"As we approach the NFL season, we are allocating all of our resources towards ramping up a US product that consumers love and building out complementary fantasy sports products.
"There are over 53 million people playing fantasy sports in the US and we are investing all of our resources on that market."
The company says that customers with funds in their accounts will have their balance "credited to the most recent bank card we have on record for you".
The business, which is co-founded by Mr Eccles, had previously suffered a setback when a number of US states argued its model is a form of gambling and therefore contravenes gaming laws in the country.
However, subsequent rulings made in its favour have put the company firmly back on track.
Speaking last year, Mr Eccles insisted his firm's offering in the UK represented "the future of fantasy football".
FanDuel was developed by Mr Eccles more than seven years ago.
Players build up teams that can play head-to-head challenges, or compete in a league with up to 125,000 teams, for prizes or cash.
The company, based in Edinburgh and New York, has been valued at $1.3bn (£1bn).
Around nine years ago, Mr Eccles was staring at his first, failed, foray into business and wondering where the next pound was coming from.
But undeterred, he and his wife Lesley put all their savings into developing their fledgling FanDuel idea.
He told the Belfast Telegraph in 2016 that he and Lesley took no salary from the firm for 18 months, driven only by their belief in the product and the fact that everything they had was invested in it.
Mr Eccles is also one of the high-profile backers of the new Ormeau Baths business and technology hubs in Belfast city centre.