I am on the wrong side of the Fan Duel standings in a Monday-Thursday league. It’s my fault, really, though I could blame the fantasy experts who said Seattle Seahawks rookie Thomas Rawls would flourish and 34-year-old Fred Jackson flail in Marshawn Lynch’s absence.
I spent 10 percent of my $60,000 budget to acquire Rawls, who is owned in 52 percent of leagues and finished with 5.2 points. Jackson cost $6,100 and scored 6.4 points for 8.1 percent of owners. The additional $100 expenditure could be offset by starting the Detroit Lions defense over a much sounder, and $1,000 more expensive, Seattle Seahawks defense.
Nearly 70 percent of owners went with the Legion of Boom and scored nine points, thanks to a linebacker illegally smacking a ball out of the end zone, while 3.4 percent enjoyed 22 fantasy points thanks to a fumble recovery touchdown. If I took that $900 into my budget, I could sub out Detroit kicker Matt Prater ($4,500, 14.5 percent owned) for Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka ($5,100, 38.8 percent owned) for a net gain of 6 points.
I could use the remaining $300 to…wait, no I’d substitute Doug Baldwin, and the 11.1 points he scored for the 26.4 percent of owners who played him at a cost of $5,700, for T.Y. Hilton (29.9 percent owned), who has yet to play for the week but cost me $7,600. Now there’s an extra $1,600 gap in my budget. I could use that to replace Frank Gore, the aging bulldog value pick at $7,300, for perennially hurt stud Arian Foster at $8,000. Now I’m $100 over budget.
Congress Clearly Has Nothing Else to Do
In other words, I am not the least bit troubled that a top employee at Draft Kings, a Fan Duel rival, won $350,000 playing fantasy football on September 27. He finished second out of more than 100,000 people who ponied up $25 for the chance at becoming a millionaire. The scandal led to accusations of insider trading and calls for regulation.
Sen. Bob Menendez, indicted on corruption charges in April, and Rep. Frank Pallone used the incident to decry fantasy sports. The New Jersey lawmakers are relishing their fleeting moment on the moral high ground.
“The allegation of ‘insider trading’ by employees of daily fantasy sports operators is a prime example of why we need a Congressional hearing to review the legal status of fantasy sports and sports betting,” Pallone said in a release. “Daily fantasy sports is functioning in a Wild West void within the legal structure. Like professional sports betting, fantasy sports should be legal, but both are currently operating in the shadows. With little legal oversight and deep investments into these sites by the same professional sports leagues that oppose traditional sports wagering, these issues are ripe for Congressional review.”
The Market Has Solved
Fan Duel and Draft Kings took swift action after the scandal broke. Each had existing policies banning their employees from participating in their own contests. From here on out, they will be prohibited from participating in any daily fantasy sport.
It seems that a little bad press closed this loophole, but that is not enough for Menendez and Pallone. The pair sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the regulator “to investigate whether this constitutes an ‘unfair or deceptive practice’ as defined in Section 5 of the FTC Act.”
“These reports raise serious questions about the integrity of these online fantasy sports websites, and it raises the question of whether there are sufficient consumer and competition safeguards to protect the integrity of these online games,” the letter says.
One can sympathize with Pallone and Menendez; they’re merely trying to save struggling Atlantic City casinos. The rest of the country should resist the temptation to use this pseudo-scandal to bring down a legitimate game of skill.
Inside Knowledge Means Nothing
One assumes that employees at Fan Duel and Draft Kings are a self-selecting group of sports fans and statisticians, but so is every other player willing to put money down on a game of make-believe. I spend my Thursdays and Sundays obsessing over advanced statistics (yards per carry when facing a 3-4 defense, yards after contact, etc., etc.) and breaking down murky injury reports and rumors. The explosion of fantasy sports has brought these types of facts and figures to the general public, rather than just National Football League execs and scouts. They are at all of our fingertips if we know where to look.
The Draft Kings employee, of course, enjoyed a slight advantage over the rest of us. He had access to the ownership percentages in his own company and could safely assume that it mirrored what was happening at his rival site.
But that kind of information only takes you so far. You can buy the under-utilized sleeper and congratulate yourself for making a contrarian pick, only to look like a fool when he fails to deliver. Just ask anyone who bought overhyped, cheap, ESPN-football-expert-approved Thomas Rawls over Fred Jackson.
Fantasy sports are games of skill, budgeting, and, to a degree, luck. Don’t tell that to the crusaders who think that picking random numbers to play government-sponsored lotteries is the equivalent of predicting that former Atlanta Falcons third-stringer Devonta Freeman will not only take red-zone touches against J.J. Watt, the best defensive lineman in a generation, but score three touchdowns—and 35.4 fantasy points—while he’s at it. I could’ve had him, too, if I took out Karlos Williams. That would’ve cost me an extra $900, which could be offset by…