Monday Night Football: DraftKings vs.FanDuel

To a 49er fan, Monday Night Football on September 14th was nearly perfect. I watched the game with my sister in Decatur, Illinois. It was the first Monday night game I have watched since I got a divorce eighteen years ago and lost my access to television. The game was not quite a Joe Montana moment, but it was still great and part of my enjoyment came because I was watching it with my sister. I was in Decatur for my annual visit to see my sister, her daughter and her grandchildren. It is a town infected by sports fanatics and my sister has caught the virus; she follows the NFL because she is in a sports pool and nothing creates more interest in any athletic contest than a little skin in the game.

Thus on Monday night, my sister and I watched Monday night football. As I said, the 49er – Vikings game was my first Monday night game in a very long time. It was a startling experience; in the first place the 49ers actually won the game and played well, but more shocking were the commercials. Fantasy sports dominated the game. Every commercial break had an advertisement for DraftKings or FanDuel. At least for that game, Fantasy sports has pushed aside cars, erectile dysfunction, beer and chips.

DraftKings, which was the No. 1 advertiser on TV last week, spending $21.8 million on roughly 5,800 commercials in the seven days ended Sept. 10, said Tuesday the furious outlay of cash in September resulted in them signing up more than 1 million new fantasy sport players. Claire Atkinson, New York Post, 9-16-15

Apparently, I am not the only one shocked by the extent of the advertising or the growth of fantasy sports betting. It has caught the attention of Congress and at least five state legislatures. In each case, there are legislators who want to take a closer look at what is happening. The legal sports books in Nevada think it is unfair to them; politicians in New Jersey think it is unfair because New Jersey is not allowed legal sports betting; and some investigative reporters are beginning to dig into the details looking for signs of an impact on the integrity of the games.

… “Two hundred thousand sign-ups today,” Jason Robins says with genuine disbelief…the latest addition to a user base that totals more than 4.5 million people…the competition between DraftKings and FanDuel will grow only fiercer, especially on TV…At times ESPN has played back-to-back DraftKings and FanDuel ads. Daniel Roberts, Fortune, 9-24-15

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) requested the hearing in the panel that oversees professional sports and gambling. He wants to scrutinize the difference in gambling on sports and playing fantasy sports and to examine the close ties between professional sports leagues and teams and the fantasy sports industry. Adam Kilgore, Washington Post, 9-15-15

The number of states exploring the legalities surrounding the booming daily fantasy sports business is growing as fast as the business. Massachusetts and California have joined Nevada in taking a potential stand on the business. Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9-21-15

At the moment, fantasy sports operate in a kind of legal limbo. To some it is illegal sports betting and to others, it is not. In the eyes of major sports leagues and associations it is not. Congress has declared it is illegal internet gambling; fantasy sports was given a specific pass when congress banned internet gaming in 2006. No one quite understands why it happened, but it did. Five states do not agree and have banned it within their borders. Another four states wishing to avoid any ambiguity have passed legislation legalizing it. While the legal status is under review nationally, fantasy sports is growing very, very fast. According to the CEO of DraftKings, there were 200,000 sign-ups in one day, a million in one week. The company has enrolled 4.5 million people thus far. With each of those sign-ups and each dollar spent on television advertising, fantasy sports sinks deeper and deeper into our collective lives.

The deeper fantasy sports sinks into our culture and economy, the harder it will become to ban it. In my opinion, the most likely outcome of all the legislative hearings and discussions will be some form of tax. But it is much too soon to predict what the future of fantasy sports might be, except to say it appears to have a very bright future judging by what I saw on that Monday night.  In the game on the field, the 49ers beat the Vikings decisively, but I think the real winners in that contest were the network and DraftKing and FanDuel. Oh, and me; I won because I spent an entire game with my sister talking about our lives.


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