Hardly a day has gone by in the past month in which daily fantasy sports contests have stayed out of the news. Most of us are catching up on the scope of DraftKings and FanDuel, and their presence has expanded. But Dr. Matt Wilson, an associate professor of sports business at Stetson University in Florida, has been out in front researching the issue. I caught up with him on that and another of his relevant areas of expertise, the rise in salaries for college coaches:
Q: Why have daily fantasy sports games become so popular?
A: When you look at it, honestly, this is what a lot of people know: What’s made NFL so popular is that it has a limited amount of games, yes, but it’s also the wagering. You can start Thursday night, you can do it all day Sunday and maybe you can catch up on Monday. Daily fantasy has tapped into that.
Q: There has been a lot of discussion of the legality of daily fantasy sports lately. What is the short-term future, based on what you’ve seen and know?
A: There has been a long-running debate of chance vs. skill in all of this. … What you have now is some states that have laws on the books regarding daily fantasy and some that don’t. Some states you can play DraftKings and FanDuel and some you can’t. Right now it’s a crapshoot. It’s the wild, wild West. And there’s no regulation for something in which there’s estimated to be a billion dollars paid out this year. With that being said, we’re constantly teaching our students down here to be scanning for trends. You can start to see it with daily fantasy. There was a class-action lawsuit filed in New York. There are legislators in Washington calling for hearings. The FBI has gotten involved. Anytime a business blows up really fast, they’re going to go under a microscope. And that’s what’s happening right now. What I’m wondering is whether they’re trying to advertise it through the roof so they can make as much money as possible, knowing that any day at any time it could be shut down.
Q: So do you anticipate the law changing or this being dramatically altered at some point?
A: Do I think in a year it’s totally gone? I can’t answer that. But I feel confident that there will be changes to the way it’s either organized, run, paid out or taxed.
Q: Shifting gears: How do you explain the upward explosion of salaries for college coaches?
A: It’s a unique relationship between athletics and academics on a college campus. The front porch of a university is the athletics program. I go back to Nick Saban at Alabama. You can look at him being the first $4 million man, but look at what he brought revenuewise to the program. The money is escalating because the market is dictating it. And athletic directors are feeling pressure because if they don’t get the guy or woman that they want to be the head of their team, someone else is going to pay them. It’s just a market that has risen tremendously.