If it feels like you can’t watch a game these days without being inundated with commercials from DraftKings or FanDuel, there’s a reason: Those two entities have spent a boatload of money promoting the business of one-week (and in some cases one-day) fantasy sports games.
A Wall Street Journal report last week noted that since Aug. 1, Draft-Kings has spent a whopping $81 million on TV ads that appeared 22,000 times (both figures are surely higher since a week has passed). FanDuel has spent another $20 million in that time span.
It got a few of us around here thinking: just what are these sites all about, anyway? What’s the appeal? How are they making enough money to afford such a media blitz? So I decided to sign up for DraftKings.com, plunking down $50 with the Star Tribune’s blessing so I could share my fantasy experience. Here’s what I can report so far after signing up this past Saturday:
• DraftKings is a smart concept and does one thing in particular incredibly well: it’s exceedingly easy to use. Within two minutes of signing up Saturday, I was picking a lineup for a one-day fantasy baseball game (normal cost $3 but free to me for signing up). Not long after that, I was mulling over a $20 NFL contest with a grand prize of $2 million and an overall prize pool of $10 million. That’s big money. I had to go for it.
A certain percentage of players in each contest finish in the money, adding to the lure. The overall numbers work in DraftKings’ favor, obviously, but they’re banking on this: Virtually everyone who plays fantasy sports has a certain ego when picking a team that makes them believe they have some secret knowledge that will allow them to triumph.
• I immediately understood the seduction, even as I hated myself. I must have checked the $10 million contest a dozen times Sunday while completely ignoring my other “traditional” fantasy leagues. A good 5 minutes was wasted as I daydreamed about what would happen if I won – and the ethical implications of doing so while signed up ostensibly as a work assignment.
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about — I finished in 337,358th place out of more than 400,000 entries.
• I still don’t understand how this is legal while betting on the outcome of a game in a similar format is not. At the very least, there’s a gray area here that DraftKings and FanDuel are taking advantage of for the time being.
I’ve won modest amounts in two of the three contests I’ve entered so far, leaving me with $39 as of now — $11 in the hole thanks to coming up empty on the $20 entry.
This experiment will last as long as I still have money in my account. Look for updates on the RandBall blog at startribune.com, and please feel free to share your experiences with DraftKings and or FanDuel by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.