Good Tuesday everyone.
With the NFL Season approaching, people who play Fantasy Sports are in high gear, ready to draft their teams.
Fantasy Football, long ago a part of a geeky stats and football
subculture, has gone beyond mainstream. The market is worth billions and information is at your fingertips. The culture keeps on growing and growing and with it, so do revenues.
How big is this market? Well, ESPN alone (one of many companies or media enterprises who run leagues) has 14 million players. There are dozens of ESPN's, and sites like FanDuel where much dinero change hands have exploded.
This has now, as the article above alludes, caused some hand wringing by governments and others, because Fantasy Football had a carve out with 2006's Unlawful Internet Gaming Act of 2006 (the same carve out horse racing has gotten). This is gambling, no doubt about it.
This niche market, that has grown beyond niche, is a testament of the power of a medium, when intertwined with gambling.
While racing relies on betting revenues to pay for virtually everything, the NFL does not. This medium is a way to encourage people to become football fans for life - to watch the games on TV, buy shirts, etc.
Let's think about that 14 million number at ESPN.com alone. That's about the number of people who watch the Derby every year. While racing can't do virtually anything with these casual fans, ESPN has already signed them up. It's astounding.
The NFL has been pretty mum on the issue. There are sites outside theirs who are "using" players and the league to host these games. Money changes hands, there's gambling going on. The NFL has not tried to block them, or charge for stats, or anything along those lines. They are a partner, albeit a silent one; one which the NFL doesn't only tolerate, but tacitly approves.
It can be argued that the NFL has done more for its sport with gambling and the 2006 UIGEA than horse racing has.
Racing is not in this position because it does not have TV contracts supplying revenues. However, it clearly has not done enough (knowing that the UIGEA of 2006 provided racing with a near monopoly in online wagering, and seeing where it stands is evidence enough). While the NFL encourages partners to sell the game for them through these various means, racing tries to more often than not, shut them down. ADW's are constantly being bombarded for more fees because they're "pirates", Betfair is the devil according to most. In racing, a past performance is treated like a piece of gold, not like a box score.
I think it's obvious this has been a big mistake.
Back in 2000 the NFL could've played hardball with fantasy football. By making a strategic decision they didn't.
14 million people are signed up in only one league this year, and come next Sunday the bulk of them will be watching Sunday Night Football, at the bar having a beer, wearing their favorite players shirt or hat. They'll bring friends to watch and play with them, their families will grow up in the same culture and it's very likely that for generations they'll be watching football.
The NFL was very smart to embrace a new way of doing things, despite fantasy football being looked at like a defacto "competitor". Realizing this early on has grown the game leaps and bounds.
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