Sunday August 31,2014 : DAILY AND WEEKLY TOURNAMENTS BOOST FANTASY SPORTS
Changes in the way contests are organised have attracted thousands of new players.
Permitted by federal law thanks to an exemption in the UIGEA as a skill game, and currently prohibited by only five states, online fantasy gaming is on a roll, with growing numbers of players paying entry fees to daily and weekly tournaments, and major commercial groups becoming increasingly involved.
Other than the suppressed desire to compete and win money or prizes which US politicians have brought about by legislating against sports betting in all but 4 states via the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the appeal of the pastime has grown for the most part through changes in the way it is now made available.
Back in 2006, when the UIGEA was passed, stealthily attached to a security bill, fantasy sports was exempted – after lobbying by the sports leagues – and consisted of events which involved seasons-long competitions that handed out prizes to a few skilled predicters among large fields of competitors.
That has evolved into today's booming business where weekly and daily fantasy games with paid entry fees and cash payouts are the norm…and these are easily available through large and still-expanding websites like FanDuel, Ballr, FantasyScore, FanNation and DraftKings, enterprises that have themselves attracted support from major businesses.
Even the sports leagues – and noticeably the National Football League, which has spent hundreds of thousands upholding the PASPA and fighting to keep online gambling in check – are involved in fantasy sports, along with major media companies like Sports Illustrated and USA Today.
The frustrated desire of US sports fans to deploy their knowledge in order to win and be rewarded has found an outlet in fantasy sports, where the age limit is 18 years (lower than that required in traditional legalised gambling) and the action is now typically short term and available through the internet and mobile devices for relatively low entry fees.
Big-money promotions for the pastime are increasing however, including elaborate television programs and channels that are pulling in growing numbers of sports fans eager to compete with others.
That has resulted in bigger and better competitions – one recently boasted a $5,200 entry fee and a $10,000 cash prize, whilst another offered a contest where players could wager up to $500 on three players they thought would dominate in a baseball match.
An indication of the growth and popularity of this sector in the United States is the level of reward available; million dollar competitions are now part of promotional and gaming structures that embrace a plethora of predictions where winners can receive cash.
And unlike "illegal" online gambling there are no payment problems and few delays.
Online fantasy sports providers have attracted the interest of investors due to the relatively low operational costs and the tasty returns on investment – a recent example is Comcast, which last year ploughed $11 million into FanDuel, a successful enterprise that boasts a player base in excess of 500,000, the publication The Tennessean reports.
Given the moralising and claims of US politicians that they are perpetually concerned for the welfare of gamblers generally, it is perhaps surprising that fantasy sports remains unregulated, with no enforced requirements for safeguards against the mingling of player deposits with company operational funds or other restrictions.
How operators handle these aspects is largely left to them, and is dependent on the integrity of management.
With the amount of money in play – DraftKing has announced that it expects to make around $400 million this year, and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates that 41 million people in the United States and Canada play some kind of fantasy sports – this is a tempting business.