What You Need to Know About the DFS Controversy
by: Brett Williams
At this point, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard about the controversy brewing around FanDuel and DraftKings, the two major players in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) arena. But, as with just about every major event in today’s crowded news cycle, most of the coverage of the story has devolved to commentary and debate among ESPN pundits and bloggers. So what really happened? What does it all mean? And more importantly, will it affect you if you play DFS?
On September 27th, DraftKings employee Ethan Haskell accidentally posted the ownership data for NFL Week 3’s Millionaire Maker contest before the day’s games had begun -- much earlier than the information would typically have been released. After being called out on a DFS forum, Haskell owned up for the mistake and assured the community that as a DraftKings employee, he wasn’t allowed to play on the site and the contest’s lineups had been set before his post, so, in his eyes, no harm done.
One big problem: on October 4th, FanDuel’s Sunday Millions contest winners were announced. Coming in second place and taking home a cool $350,000 was that same Ethan Haskell of DraftKings. True, he hadn’t used his DraftKings stats to profit on his own site, just like he had said the week before. What it looked like, however, was that he used the insider information after all -- to play and win on the rival FanDuel.
Once sharp-eyed observers connected the dots, the hammer started to come down on both sites. The New York Times published an exposé about the controversy, FanDuel and DraftKings released multiple joint statements to clarify the situation and clear Haskell and themselves of any wrongdoing, ESPN suspended DraftKings-sponsored programming (but not ads), and the New York Attorney General launched an inquiry into both DFS giants. Needless to say, it’s been a busy week for the DFS community.
What It Means For You
With all of this extra attention on DraftKings and FanDuel, you’re probably wondering what exactly it might mean for you, the average DFS player, should anything really controversial come to light. In short, the answer is simple: it means nothing. DFS is an extremely fast growing, legal source of entertainment for millions of players across the country with major investments from the sports leagues that the games revolve around. It’s not just going to go away overnight after one internal controversy. You can read this in-depth interview Fortune published after speaking with Draft Kings CEO Jason Robins about the situation. His message is clear: we messed up, employees of FanDuel and DraftKings will no longer be permitted to play public DFS, and the industry expects to grow exponentially as it moves beyond this unfortunate incident.
If this has taught us anything, it‘s that having as much information as you can is essential in playing DFS successfully. There’s a large element of skill and intuition that go into picking a winning lineup, and that can only really be harnessed when you have the best possible intel available. So if you have the chance to use next-level statistical algorithms to supplement your research and gut feelings about the players you draft for you lineups, you should definitely take that option. It’s about as close as you can get to playing with insider information.