NFL fantasy leagues, other products drive sports wagering

2 October 2014

LAS VEGAS -- The popularity and accessibility of fantasy sports and the instant gratification delivered by new products like weekly NFL fantasy leagues is propelling sports wagering to new heights, panelists addressing a session at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2014 said Wednesday.

It also doesn’t hurt that the NFL, which generally opposes gambling on its games, embraces fantasy sports contests as games of skill and not chance.

The four-day G2E show, attended by 27,000 people, will wrap up today at The Venetian and the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

“The business is very, very healthy,” said panelist Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill, which operates 75 sports books across Nevada.

Asher said the interest in sports wagering is growing and handles at Nevada’s legal sports books are increasing as mobile gaming — betting on contests from smartphones or other personal computing devices — becomes more popular.

Asher said Nevada sports books made $200 million last year on a handle of $3.6 billion with 36 percent of that coming in to Nevada books on mobile devices.

And, Nevada’s legal books are only a tiny percentage of the total wagered on sports. Experts estimate the legal handle is just 1 percent of what’s bet through bookmakers.

Technology-driven book operations like William Hill and CG Technology have driven volume with fast-moving wagering and rapidly changing odds. Inline or day-trade wagering can include bets on every football play or every baseball pitch and the fast action has drawn players that weren’t enamored with the slow pace of traditional sports wagering.

That’s also part of the appeal of fantasy league play, which is legal in 45 states.

“Weeklong fantasy sports contests fit into how our consumers play,” said panelist Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings, one of the new-breed providers of weeklong and daylong fantasy sports games.

“We appeal to the player who likes the bite-sized, instant gratification style of play,” he said. “It’s generally accepted as legal because it’s skill-based and we have free games or money games that you can play for as little as 25 cents.”

DraftKings doesn’t operate in Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Washington where definitions of skill-based games don’t fall within the company’s play procedures.

How much skill is involved in fantasy sports? Robins concurred that much of the skill required is knowing which players are inactive or not playing as well as their statistics suggest.

“Nobody is going to draft Adrian Peter­son right now,” he said.

Peterson, a Minnesota Vikings running back coming off successive stellar seasons, isn’t playing after he was accused of child abuse and was made inactive by his team.

Fantasy sports leagues were carved out as a legal activity within the Un­lawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

Robins believes fantasy sports will continue to grow because of he thinks there’s still suppressed demand that isn’t being met.

Casino companies are also keeping a close watch on fantasy sports as a potential profit center and other states are continuing to try to provide legal sports books.

MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said Tuesday in a G2E presentation that his company is considering fantasy sports options.

New Jersey, meanwhile, led by Gov. Chris Christie, will be in court next week after the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA sued on Monday to block Christie’s plan for New Jersey casinos and racetracks to accept sports bets.

Related Links
Ranked Online Fantasy Sports Sites
Ranked Online Sportsbooks
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2014