Poisonous Picks and Potential Outcomes in Daily Fantasy Sports

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arellis49 via Flickr

Football is a team sport, in the fantasy leagues it's about individuals.

Christopher Starnawski, Staff writer

Fantasy football is awesome. It’s something I’ve been a part of for the past decade and something I like to think I’m good at. The league I’ve been a part of with my nine other friends from high school is something that has helped us stay in touch. It gives us a reason to talk trash on a Tuesday and share a laugh, even when our schedules are tight. Fantasy football is awesome for many reasons, but can negatively affect your life if you let yourself become addicted. Some people get so attached to their team that a loss can spiral them into a gloom for the rest of the week, worse if they lose two weeks in a row. While football is a team sport, fantasy football is more about individual athletes. In the fantasy leagues, the most concerning loss is the savings accounts people wager because they could feel it in their gut that this was going to be the best week of Trent Richardson’s career.

As a result of instances such as these, and the possibility that a DraftKings’ employee used insider information to win 350 thousand dollars on FanDuel, the FBI launched an investigation into daily fantasy sports websites. It was later determined that the DraftKings’ employee didn’t receive the information until almost an hour after he submitted his lineup. Regardless of timing, an instance such as this is a cause for concern. The investigation could result in these websites being shut down, leaving millions of players’ accounts frozen, similar to the “Black Friday” which occurred in 2011 when the FBI froze online poker websites.

Major fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel are adamant that their procedures are legal. Justine Sacco, a spokesperson for FanDuel discounts the possibility that players’ accounts may end up frozen. “… we segregate player funds into a dedicated master client funds account to ensure player cash is segregated and we have more than sufficient funds to meet any player’s withdrawal requests at all times.”

Sacco’s statement certainly provides confidence, but many daily fantasy players are still uneasy by the possibility. Especially when a Reddit IAmA with DraftKings CEO Jason Robins resurfaced in a Deadspin article in which Robins compared online poker sites to DraftKings.

“The concept is almost identical to a casino… specifically poker. We make money when people win pots,” Robins wrote during the IAmA three years ago.

In hindsight, these were not the best choice of words and is part of the reason the Nevada Gaming Commission ruled in favor of deeming daily fantasy sites as a form of gambling.

Since the Nevada Gaming Commission ruled in favor of this, daily fantasy sites like DraftKings and FanDuel have been frozen within the state until the companies receive gambling licenses. Nevada is the U.S. capital for betting and gambling, so if it were determined in court that daily fantasy sports is in fact a form of gambling, then the rest of the nation would have to follow their lead.

Illinois State Representative Mike Zalewski introduced new legislation that could make Illinois a nationwide leader in fantasy sports regulation. In the proposed regulations, players would be prevented from overplaying, fantasy sites would be allowed to check if players are behind on child support or taxes, and anyone under the age of 18 would be prohibited from playing. Regulations such as these would support the industry as it continues to grow. “We have a chance here to put Illinois at the forefront of a new and emerging technology and to encourage responsible innovation, rather than stifle it.” Zalewski said during a press conference last week.

At this point, the outcome of daily fantasy sports is still up in the air but state representatives will soon decide where they stand in terms of regulating the websites. It doesn’t appear that another “Black Friday” is on the horizon, but if Nevada sets the table for the rest of the nation it is still a definite possibility. Fantasy football is awesome. The popularity of these sites can’t be overlooked; the proposed regulations would improve the experience and make for a healthier participation.