As you surely know if you’ve been watching televised sporting events (or television in general) in recent months, Daily Fantasy Sports is absolutely exploding. It’s something we cover here at Awful Announcing on a regular basis because the popularity of these games has become so prevalent with hundreds of millions of dollars being invested and — as the deluge of advertising indicates — spent on marketing.
But for the hundreds of thousands of fans playing DFS with DraftKings, FanDuel and other outlets, the presumption is that the game is fair, that everyone has access to the same information and data. However, a recent controversy demonstrated that the playing field might not be as even as participants might believe.
As detailed by Legal Sports Report, the integrity of the game comes down to one concerning mishap. Last week, a DraftKings employee prematurely (or accidentally) posted information about ownership numbers of particular football players before the Week 3 slate of NFL games began. Such data is usually made available on the site after all games have started and all lineups submitted for final play.
But having that information available could conceivably provide a significant advantage for DFS players over those who wouldn’t know those same ownership numbers. As LSR explains:
“Because of the massive number of entries in the biggest contests at DraftKings and FanDuel — hundreds of thousands — it’s usually difficult to win a contest with a lot of players that are commonly owned. Rostering some players with low ownership percentages and a high upside is a strategy that many players employ.”
The leak looks particularly suspicious, considering that the DraftKings employee who made the information available won $350,000 at FanDuel during that particular week. While there isn’t any proof that the employee directly benefited from his access to that information or its release, it certainly looks bad, akin to insider trading on the stock market. Are these games rigged for a select few high-rolling players, many of whom allegedly work for daily fantasy sites?
By the way, employees at one DFS company are allowed to play at a rival site. But this controversy has called into question whether these sites regulating themselves is enough of a measure to prevent such practices from occurring. How many DFS employees have access to such data and what other information might be available to give prospective players a sizable advantage over the competition, thus skewing the game? And in light of this leak, what steps are being taken to make sure nothing like this happens again?
At the very least, the ability of DFS employees to play at other sites, or their own, appears to be a major conflict of interest. But with no form of regulation or oversight, these sorts of improprieties are allowed to happen without any sort of penalty. Can DFS sites be trusted to police themselves?
With rumblings that Congress is considering looking into the legality of daily fantasy games, this would seem to be just the sort of incident that could trigger investigations and hearings. Unless DFS sites clean themselves up, the government will likely get involved.