Daily Fantasy News Roundup: September, 2017

We failed to deliver an August edition of our monthly fantasy sports news roundup, so consumed were we with the early stages of a new NFL season. We are very much looking forward to another great year of fantasy football, but today’s post is all about catching up on industry news and updates from around the world.

The topics of discussion today:

  • RotoGrinders Acquires Fantasy Insiders
  • DFS Formally Legalized in New Jersey and New Hampshire
  • FanDuel and DraftKings Return to Delaware
  • Is DraftKings Heading to Ireland Next?
  • Massachusetts Considering Classifying Fantasy Sports as Online Gaming
  • Resorts AC Launches New “FastPick” Fantasy Site in NJ

RotoGrinders Acquires Fantasy Insiders

DFS news, strategy and discussion website RotoGrinders.com announced last week that it has acquired fellow fantasy website FantasyInsiders.com in a deal for an undisclosed sum. These are two of the largest fantasy sports websites in the business and their merger will create a new behemoth in fantasy sports commentary and analysis.

The move will have Fantasy Insiders transfer most of their daily fantasy content over to RotoGrinders. Key people from Fantasy Insiders will remain active producing strategy content and podcasts at at both websites.

A Fantasy Insiders press release put it this way:

“FantasyInsiders.com will slowly transition into the season-long fantasy football extension of RotoGrinders, featuring familiar faces and content that feature the same two goals as we’ve always had – entertain and help users win.”

The SwoleCast live show (complete with the whole crew), the AutoMattek Absolutes column and The Reid Option column will all be moved over to RotoGrinders. Nothing will be lost, but these key publications will move from free mode to subscription mode as a part of RotoGrinders Premium ($299 per year, $29.95 per month or $125 for a season).

As RotoGrinders absorbs the daily fantasy content, Fantasy Insiders will change its focus to season-long fantasy sports content. RotoGrinders and Fantasy Insiders will both continue to operate on independent websites, but both will also now operate under the RotoGrinders umbrella.

What’s Happening with the Core Fantasy Insiders Team?

It’s looking like most of the key Fantasy Insiders people will be sticking around even after the transition. The Fantasy Insiders press release explained that:

“Sammy and Davis are still going to be a part of RG and FI going forward. Tuttle will be helping with the SwoleCast as previously mentioned. Amico and Jeff will still be doing content for FI. Nate will be helping with data projects for both sites. Ben has hung up his touting shoes, though I expect (and hope) it to be a Favre-like retirement. Luis is still contemplating what to do.

“I [David Kitchen] will still be heading up the Fantasy Insiders seasonal project as well as taking on a Creative Director role with RotoGrinders. With RotoGrinders’ sweet downtown office a few miles away and baby #3 arriving soon, I’m stoked to be working with the media, marketing, and development teams in person.”

What’s Happening to RotoGrinders

The RotoGrinders press release echoed much of what Fantasy Insiders said in their press release. RotoGrinders will be taking much of the Fantasy Insiders DFS content and moving it over to the RotoGrinders Premium service.

It doesn’t sound like a whole lot will be changing immediately at RotoGrinders.com, but the acquisition will give RotoGrinders even more resources to continue its own path forward. As the new Creative Director, David Kitchen will probably have no shortage of ideas when it comes to pushing RotoGrinders in new directions.

In a post on the RotoGrinders forums, Dave Kitchen sounded optimistic on the future of season-long leagues online. A part of his post reads:

“From a season-long perspective, it just makes sense for this partnership. With all of the season-long sites attempting to get into DFS, we want to bring the same analytical tools and entertainment to the industry. The industry is still changing, and things like the rising popularity of best ball seasonal sites are an example of that.

“Our weeknight SiriusXM Fantasy show is already heavily focused on season-long content, and we’re going to gradually add podcast, shows, content, draft kits, and tools to help people win their leagues.

“All in all, a lot of work has gone into the this site, the FI brand, the acquisition deal, but we’re not done. We’re just getting started, and it’s going to be a blast.”

It sounds like the move will be a good thing overall for most people. The one negative outcome among all this that a good chunk of Fantasy Insiders content (including the SwoleCast show) will be placed under lock and key as a part of RotoGrinders Premium. However, it really does sound like a lot of other good things are still coming down the pipeline that will help balance the loss of free access to certain DFS content.

DFS Formally Legalized in New Hampshire and New Jersey

New Hampshire and New Jersey became the latest states to formally legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports this summer. The major fantasy sites have been doing business in both states for quite some time now even prior to the legislation being enacted, but the DFS business now has formal legal protection in both states.

New Hampshire was first to the punch with legislation signed into law by Governor Chris Sununu in July. HB 580 specifically legalizes daily fantasy sports and implements typical consumer protection regulations such as protecting player information, preventing employees of DFS sites from participating in paid contests and son on.

Nothing major will be changing from the players’ point of view. FanDuel and DraftKings have seen similar regulations implemented in more than a dozen states so far and long ago adjusted their business models to ensure compliance.

The only major change from the operators’ point of view is they will now be required to register with the New Hampshire Lottery Commission. Interestingly, the legislation imposes no new licensing fees or taxes on fantasy sports operators.

New Jersey joined the legalization party in August after Governor Chris Christie signed A3532 into law. The bill originated in the New Jersey Assembly in April and quickly made its way through the process before landing on Chris Christie’s desk. Once the bill made it to the Governor’s desk, there was little doubt he would sign it given his recent efforts to bring actual sports betting to New Jersey.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs will be responsible for regulating daily fantasy sports operators and will be issuing regulations to that effect. Moving forward, fantasy sports sites will be required to obtain a permit from the division and pay a 10.5% tax to the state. The division will also be imposing a permitting fee of some sort on operators, but has not yet revealed what that fee will be.

FanDuel and DraftKings Return to Delaware

A piece of legislation seeking to legalize, regulate and tax daily fantasy sports in Delaware became law near the end of July. We discussed the bill earlier that month and noted that it seemed to have good odds of making it into law.

That bill did indeed become law less than two weeks later. Now, FanDuel and DraftKings have both returned to Delaware after being forced out of the state a little over a year ago and just in time for the 2017 NFL season. The new bill has some of the most prohibitive taxes and licensing fees in the country, but FanDuel and DraftKings did not hesitate to pay up and get back to business in Delaware.

The new law in Delaware imposes a $50,000 licensing fee as well as a tax rate that will surely make smaller operators think twice before making their own return. The bill calls for a tax rate of either 15.5% on gross revenue or the highest tax rate imposed by any other state in the US, whichever is higher.

Like other legalization bills passed in recent years around the nation, Delaware’s new fantasy law includes a variety of standard consumer protection regulations. Some of these include establishing a minimum age of 18, preventing employees from participating and a prohibition of contests involving college or amateur sports.

Is DraftKings Heading to Ireland Next?

The answer is yes, according to a recent report in Irish business startup webzine Fora.ie. The website reports that DraftKings Chief International Officer Jeffrey Haas has confirmed DraftKings will be launching in Ireland by the end of the 2017.

Haas did not commit to a firm launch date, but Fora reports DraftKings has already sent a submission to Ireland’s Department of Finance asking to be categorized as a game of skill. DraftKings also suggested that the Department of Finance set a tax rate in the range of 4-5% for fantasy operators in Ireland.

Comments from Jeffrey Haas give the impression that DraftKings will be taking a measured approach in its Irish expansion. They have no immediate plans to open a regional office in Ireland and Haas also wouldn’t comment on how much money they plan to invest in the site’s Irish ambitions. His answers to that question was to simply say “it’s early days.”

Small launch or not, it looks like Irish sports fans will soon have access to real money contests on DraftKings. Jeffrey Haas told Fora that the company likes the Irish market because “Irish sports fans are incredibly passionate and they make themselves known wherever they are found.

Massachusetts Considering Classifying Fantasy Sports as Online Gaming

A Massachusetts special commission formed to study online gaming and fantasy sports recently voted 5-3 on a report that includes a recommendation to classify daily fantasy sports under the “online gaming” umbrella.

This is only a recommendation from the commission as it would require legislative approval to become official, but the recommendation could cause headaches for DFS sites should it be adopted.

Legal Sports Report has a nice breakdown of the implications of such a decision here. In short, the decision could cause DFS sites to be subject to the complex regulations and expensive taxes that are applied to gambling operators in Massachusetts. Furthermore, the move could muddy the legal waters for DFS sites should other states look to Massachusetts as an example for regulating daily fantasy sports.

If other states were to follow suit, the fantasy sports business would become a whole lot more complicated and expensive in those other states as well.

DraftKings Director of Public Affairs James Chisholm expressed his displeasure with the recommendation in a statement:

“While this commission report is merely a recommendation, it runs directly counter to the economic development law that overwhelmingly passed last year designed to promote the state’s Innovation Economy.

“The commission’s actions today, as we and our partners in the fantasy sports industry pointed out time and time again, could restrain our company’s ability to thrive and create jobs here in Massachusetts. These recommendations if ever adopted would put us behind every other state in the country on this issue, and send a troubling message to other startups.”

Resorts AC Launches New “FastPick” Fantasy Site in NJ

Resorts Atlantic City in New Jersey has launched a new daily fantasy website open to all state residents age 21 and over. This is not your typical daily fantasy site along the vein of FanDuel or DraftKings. FastPick.com does have recognizable fantasy elements, but the way it plays gives one the sense of parlay sports betting more than it does modern DFS.

For one, FastPick is played against the house rather than against other players. Secondly, FastPick does not involve drafting a team in the traditional sense and racking up points for your team.

The goal in FastPick is not to build the best fantasy team. Instead, each game presents player vs. player matchups of real world athletes. Your job is to pick which of those two players will end the day with more fantasy points.

For example, the following matchup from a fantasy baseball game is asking to pick between G. Stanton and M. Machado for today’s MLB games.

The player who finishes today with more fantasy points based on his real-world play is considered the winner. Your goal in each pick is to predict which of the two players in each matchup will earn the most fantasy points.

You can wager anywhere from $10 to $200 on each game. After you put your money, you make anywhere from 3 to 10 predictions in this manner. If you get every prediction correct, you get paid. The more selections you make, the bigger the potential prize. However, more predictions also expose you to more risk. If you get just one of your predictions wrong, you win nothing.

FastPick launched in July and has been running daily games since then. Resorts AC president Mark Giannantonio said this about the launch of the new game:

“I’m very excited about this new business. We expect it to be exciting for our online customers and, soon, for those who play at our casino. The idea has always been for the brick-and-mortar casino to be integrated as much as possible with our online business.”