Has legalized sports wagering forced Daily Fantasy Sports into the background?
With the daily news and momentum of legalized sports wagering continuing to pour upon us, is it time to honestly evaluate whether daily fantasy sports wagering will remain a factor of interest within our U.S. sports culture?
The debate will continue for at least the next year or two while it’s two biggest proponents and driving force companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, may answer the question. Before official U.S. legalization day last May 14th, it was their bread and butter. Now it seems to be just that. Bread and butter on the table as a complement serving their much larger main meal: fully legalized sports wagering and all the menu facets within.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to worry about the future of DFS (daily fantasy sports) are honestly displayed on the home page of the DraftKings website. Scroll down the page and one tag line lists "Five Reasons You Just Don’t Just Want to Watch, You Want to Play".
Number Four proclaims "Helps you Enjoy Games you Normally Wouldn’t Care About". Hmmm . . . that's a troubling, but honest, statement. It’s been long argued that gamblers watch several games they would have no general interest in for specific wagering purposes only. For example, the many meaningless NCAA College Bowl Games that have recently completed.
But here we’re taking a few extra steps beyond those boundaries. For far less competitive and compelling reasons, will people watch complete games to see if specific players rack up statistics for their wagering benefit? Are you watching a baseball game on the MLB Network to keep score of competitive hits? Will anyone be subscribing to the NFL RedZone on Sundays in the future to keep tabs on receiver yardage?
Reason Number Five has a more legitimate hold on the traditional daily fantasy wagering (DFW) bettor. The DraftKings banner states "You’ll Root for Players Outside of Your Favorite Team".
Many casual sports bettors have often wrestled with the problem betting AGAINST their treasure home team, even when they felt there was very legitimate opportunity to do so. After the game was over and their favorite home team did not cover the spread, many were left angry, losing a great chance - due to their loyalty. With fantasy sports wagering, the feeling is less of a betrayal as they’re not tied to betting upon an entire home team. It almost recalls comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s very famous observation, "are we loyal to our home team players or just rooting for the uniform".
The Big Money
The massive rise in DFW wagering popularity five years ago was due to a pair of very identifiable reasons.
One, the opportunity for legalized wagering in the U.S. had not arrived yet. This was the singular chance to make easy legalized wagers on sports competition over the Internet for casual bettors. It was highly advertised and easily accessible through payment processing. There was no doubt that team point spread betting was the much more preferred option for all. However, at the time, the consensus feeling was this was the only and best option available besides the more established online sportsbooks.
The other reason and extremely major factor were the attractive pots of money made available within several of the DFS contests offered. It was not uncommon to see prizes awarded from $10,000 to $1,000,000 from industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel. No one questioned the padded source of the funding. But it is ironic that certain NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL teams help sponsor these tournaments, while championing the fight at that juncture against legalized sports wagering. In a sense, a new approved public relations source for fans to tune in without the evil stigma of gambling was invented.
Fantasy is now Reality
A continued scroll through the DraftKings website can’t help but remind us all the lessons learned through the history of DFW and the realities it faces now.
It states 20K+ Contests per Day, however long gone are promises of those weekly million-dollar paydays. A reference to the $6.2 Billion paid out across all sports is somewhat of a misleading claim toward anything hopeful in the future.
Another interesting footnote mentions "Play Against People of Your Own Skill Level". That was a highly controversial and legal subject regarding the opportunity for the average or most causal participant to win a contest. Armed with the most sophisticated statistical tools, it was proven that a very, very small number of DFS customers were successful in its past. Also, not forgotten is the 2015 insider information scam once damaging DraftKings and FanDuel’s market reputation. Information was leaked between rival companies, enabling an employee to win a six-figure contest.
Lastly, it’s noted to "Play Private Contests Against Your Friends". Although lacking the chance to win thousands, many DFW fans wanted the chance to participate in office-type pools rather than competing against anonymous players. This option offers a more personal approach with bragging rights along with any financial gain.
Overall, I wasn’t included in the final discussion among the nine Supreme Court jurors before they made their landmark decision reversing PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) on May 14th. But give daily fantasy wagering some minor obscure credit as a legitimate factor in their decision. It began to set the table for the U.S. sports wagering culture and landscape to slowly change. The compelling questions now are where is it headed? Is there a justifiable and profitable market for daily fantasy wagering? Or simply room on the plate as a minor appetizer for a much bigger sports betting meal?
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.