I was given $50 to play with on DraftKings, and the idea was to explore 1) how far that money would go, 2) what I thought of the concept of daily fantasy, and 3) where the news of DFS was headed.
And then a lot of the hot-button topics surrounding DFS kind of cooled down. And the ad blitz slowed down. And, well, I frankly got bored with it. There’s still money in the account. I won some, lost some. But I haven’t played in a couple of months.
Maybe it’s just me? Maybe it’s such an NFL-related phenomenon (even if there are all sorts of sports contests you can enter for money) that once the season wound down there was less incentive?
That said, I was drawn back into the industry by a very good recent ESPN piece that examines some of the problems within the industry — focusing mostly on public perception and why some people just seem to hate DFS.
The takeaway from the story was tidy:
The three most common answers, in order: (1) the advertising, (2) the industry’s “not gambling” stance and (3) the media coverage.
Each of those areas was examined in strong detail, with more interesting takeaways.
In terms of advertising, the blitz that started right around the beginning of the 2015 NFL season had two problems. One, it actually turned some people off because it was so pervasive. And two, it put DFS too far into the spotlight, where it started being examined more closely by the media and lawmakers.
“Casino gaming has learned over the years to try and keep a low profile,” said Gene Johnson, a senior vice president for Spectrum Gaming Group. “The DFS ad blitz put it in the public’s face and provoked a negative backlash. [It wasn't] the wisest strategy, in retrospect.“
On the industry’s stance that DFS is not gambling — a key distinction that allows it to be legal, and one that many people (including myself) question — again there were problems because it led to the public (many of whom were current or prospective DFS players) feeling misled, the piece argues.
To me, this was the best sequence in the entire lengthy story:
During a recent phone interview, another daily fantasy executive attempted to explain the distinction they make between daily fantasy sports and traditional sports betting: “I view that [DFS] is a game of skill that’s around an entertainment product, where you have to understand, in-depth, the players across the board. You have to understand what the weather conditions are; who that player is up against. You have to understand injury reports.”
Sound familiar? Ask any high-level sport bettor their process in picking which teams to bet, and they’ll tell you, in some form, that they examine players, weather conditions, matchups and injury reports. Certainly, there are nuances between how fantasy sports and traditional sports betting are played, but the core skill is exactly the same: You are attempting to predict the performance of athletes. As long as daily fantasy operators continue to attempt to talk around that reality, they’ll be facing an uphill battle against the public.
As for the media coverage, the story notes that a lot of the early reporting on DFS could be considered negative — a fact that certainly can cloud public perception. Though in the true spirit of fair and balanced, the piece also notes that once DFS started getting noticed, a lot of the stories were naturally not complimentary because the news was about lawsuits and other scandals.
The piece concludes by noting that much remains to be sorted out — in the courts and otherwise.
DraftKings and FanDuel are trying to survive courtroom battles long enough to allow legislation to be passed, clarifying fantasy sports’ legal status, and approximately 20 states have introduced bills. But there’s still a long battle ahead — particularly in the court of public opinion.
Indeed. And while the discussion might be relatively dormant for a while, the start of the baseball season is not far away and the next NFL season will be here sooner than we think.