Daily fantasy sports debates dominate Day 2 of Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas

29 September 2015
LAS VEGAS -- Your Sunday afternoon of watching the NFL on TV isn’t the only party to be crashed by daily fantasy sports.
Day 2 of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, the world's largest gaming trade show and conference, was dominated by DFS. It started with some pointed comments from American Gaming Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman at a Tuesday morning press conference inside the Sands Expo and Convention Center and continued throughout the day, particularly during two compelling seminars centering on whether DFS should be considered gambling and, in turn, be regulated.
The session, titled “Regulation of Sports Betting and Daily Fantasy Sports in the United States: Questions Abound,” was the highlight of the day as William Hill CEO Joe Asher and Star Fantasy Leagues COO Seth Young engaged in an entertaining -- and sometimes testy -- back-and-forth.
When Young said, “I don’t think we want to see any top-tier (DFS) operator in the market have to be regulated if they are already doing a good job on their own,” Asher, sitting directly to his left, quickly interjected.
Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings, explains how DFS differs from traditional sports betting at G2E in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings, explains how DFS differs from traditional sports betting at G2E in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

“Why? Why is regulation such a bad thing,” an animated Asher said. “The airlines are regulated. I’m glad they are because I don’t want them crashing into each other in the sky. (The sports-betting industry) is regulated. A fire code exists so (we) don’t have too many people in a room. That’s a good thing.
“So when you speak about regulation, you act as though it’s the worst thing in the world. Regulation, in many respects, is actually OK, Seth. So, why are you guys so afraid of it?”
Later, Asher came after Young again when he mentioned DFS was a game of skill and thus protected by the UIEGA.
“Look, I’m all for fantasy sports, but I think we should acknowledge what it is, and it’s gambling,” Asher said. “Blackjack is a skill. Poker is definitely a skill. And I can tell you for sure that there is skill in traditional sports betting. All of those things are considered gambling and they are regulated. So the idea that daily fantasy sports should live out there in its own unregulated world, I think it’s ludicrous.”
Later in the day, in a much more tame discussion, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins was the centerpiece of the “Business Threat or Opportunity: Sports Betting, Daily Fantasy and the Ongoing Debate” seminar, joined on a panel by Jeff Burge, CFO of CG Technology, and Chris Sheffield, managing director of Penn National Gaming.
Moderator Thomas Roche didn’t waste any time in asking Robins the burning question, “How does daily fantasy sports differ from traditional sports betting?”
Robins, who was calm and calculated throughout the one-hour discussion, said DFS is much different from traditional sports betting, which “focuses on playing against the house on a single outcome that has a lot of statistical variance.” Conversely, he explained, daily fantasy sports pits “players against other players” who are trying to “pick the summation of billions of possible outcomes.”
“It requires a significant amount of skill,” he said. “It’s much like playing a game of chess or any other skill game out there where the very good, talented players study the game, do their research and really know what they are doing.”
Robins went on to say that sportsbook and DFS operators attract different clientele, with less than 15% of DraftKings customers reporting they place bets in a traditional sportsbook format, either on the black market or legally.
“A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that there is an extremely low overlap,” he added. “As someone who has placed bets in Las Vegas sportsbooks and has played a lot of fantasy sports, I can tell you it’s quite a different experience.”
Robins also reported that DraftKings acquired nine times more players this September compared to last year, likely due to the barrage of TV ads seen throughout the opening month of the football season. DraftKings and chief competitor, FanDuel, combined to spend $80 million on advertising from Aug. 1 to Sept. 15, according to iSpot.tv.
So as DFS continues to grow, it remains to be seen how its relationship with the traditional sports betting industry transpires. If Freeman, the AGA CEO and president, has his way, the two will ultimately join forces.
“If daily fantasy sports is in a gray area, it is our job to make it black and white,” he said. “If it’s legal, we need to be involved. But we don’t view it as a threat. We view it as a potential partnership that could be beneficial for both sides.”

Gary Trask

Articles by Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has more than 25 years of experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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