You may be familiar with the relatively new business segment of daily fantasy sports. Run by companies such as FanDuel* or DraftKings, players of daily fantasy draft a team of actual athletes who then score fantasy points according to set scoring rules specific to the site. As far as that goes, it’s just like regular fantasy sports.
The difference: instead of having your team all season and trading with other players in a league, the daily fantasy sports player plays his team for just one day. Generally, you pay an entry fee or set up an account and collect winnings at the end of the day. In this way it has an awful lot in common with sports gambling but, based on certain rules and definitions contained in federal law, it is not classified as gambling. It’s legal in 45 states as well. While the segment was just invented in 2009, it’s a huge, huge business which is growing rapidly. At present, Over 3 million people play daily fantasy games.
Sports leagues have taken notice. And not, as one may have assumed several years ago, because it has some elements of gambling to it and the leagues view it as a threat. Rather, the leagues have viewed it as a hot business with which to get involved. From the Washington Post:
In 2013, with no fanfare, Major League Baseball purchased a financial stake in DraftKings. Last summer, the NBA announced a partnership with FanDuel that, according to a person familiar with the terms, gave the league an ownership stake greater than 2.5 percent of the company.
Which means when you plunk down your money on a FanDuel fantasy contest, a small portion trickles back to the real league.
The article quotes one sports law expert as saying “Depending on how broad your definition of gambling is the NBA runs a sports book.”
Maybe that’s putting it too strongly — again, federal law views this differently because actual game outcomes are not wagered on, even if individual performances are, however indirectly. But it is an interesting development, particularly for baseball, which has always been way, way, way more wary of gambling than any other sport.
Just another data point to throw into the general conversation about baseball and gambling. A conversation which seems to come up more and more often these days. And one which, it seems, is turning away from the idea of sports leagues keeping gambling away and more towards figuring out how to get in on some of the action.
*Full disclosure: NBC has an ownership interest in FanDuel and FanDuel has, in the past, advertised on HardballTalk and other NBC Sports sites.