Fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel have carved out a booming online niche – but can they sustain their success?
It’s Sunday morning, and 26-year-old Ethan Sturm logs on to his computer at home in Boston and begins his search. Scrolling through the thousands of potential competitions he can enter via the daily fantasy sports site FanDuel, Sturm picks out a few contests and starts crafting his lineups.
He doesn’t want to get into any of the larger tournaments, preferring to face off against 100 or so competitors or less. He uses what’s called a lineup optimizer – a tool available for free on other fantasy sports sites that projects player output – to help him make his decisions, and figures out how much money he wants to wager.
[DEBATE CLUB: Are Daily Fantasy Sports Gambling?]
This is Sturm’s first year playing daily fantasy football – a variation on the more popularly known and season-long fantasy sports leagues – but he trusts his instincts and knowledge of the game, gleaned from years of playing in normal fantasy leagues and countless hours listening to podcasts on his commute to work.
Some liken it to the high-risk, high-reward atmosphere of day trading, in which small fortunes can be made and lost on the whims of volatile financial markets. Others take a less forgiving view, saying such activities amount to legalized online gambling and that they need to be stopped – or, at the very least, monitored much more closely.
Daily fantasy allows a player to join any number of leagues on a given day, pay a small entry fee, construct a lineup and win – or lose out on – cash prizes that depend on the contest. The only constraints on the fantasy roster are fictitious salary caps: The site assigns dollar values to specific players based on their projected performance, and contestants are required to submit lineups with players whose arbitrary values don’t exceed the cap.
At first, Sturm started with free competitions on FanDuel that reward winners with small sums of cash, but he quickly graduated to wagering money.
“Early this year, I won a $20 (tournament),” Sturm says. “I’ve just kind of been using that as my bankroll for playing in small tournaments.”
Meanwhile, 750 miles and a half-dozen states away in North Carolina, 42-year-old Paul Guerrero is doing nearly the same thing.