Startup Allows Players In Existing Fantasy Leagues To Create Weekly Real-Money Challenges
Legal Sports Report

Startup Site SidePrize Hopes To Hold Key To Converting Season-Long Fantasy Players To DFS

Yet another alternative form of daily fantasy sports launched this week, as the startup SidePrize attempts to tie existing season-long leagues into the DFS market.

How does it work?

The soft launch for SidePrize came last week, as a part of a relationship with RotoWire, on their MLB Commissioner platform. The official launch came today.

The idea is simple: Fantasy players use their teams in a season-long league to make a side challenge on one week’s slate of games against another player. At core, SidePrize is trying to bring the fun and the sweat of the daily version of fantasy directly to season-long players.

“The daily fantasy sports industry is booming, and they’re searching for ways to convert traditional fantasy users,” said SidePrize CEO Adam Wexler. “SidePrize brings added engagement, and essentially introduces these season-long players to daily games.”

Here are the logistics, as of launch:

  • Players link their RotoWire accounts to SidePrize and deposit funds.
  • Once linked, players are redirected to SidePrize, and can use the platform to challenge other players in their season-long leagues who have also linked their accounts to SidePrize. The contests are for one week, and players can set the amount up for grabs.
  • Once a challenge has been proposed and accepted, SidePrize debits both players’ accounts.
  • The SidePrize platform uses a season-long platform’s scoring to determine who won the contest, and the winner will be paid directly by SidePrize, minus a fee.

“It’s always refreshing to see new companies and new ideas enter the fantasy space,” RotoWire founder and president Peter Schoenke said. “I believe SidePrize adds an interesting angle to season-long fantasy, and I’m excited about the possibilities ahead.”

The possibilities of SidePrize

For now, SidePrize is only available for MLB contests, but it plans to have offerings for football in the fall. Wexler noted that SidePrize has other relationships in the works that are not yet ready for announcement.

The ceiling for an offering like SidePrize seems pretty high. Instead of trying to fully convert a season-long player to DFS, it gives season-long players an easy way to enter a daily-type game.

“Basically you have DFS on one side, which is introducing a brand new game, a brand new behavior. But for all the people who have more money than time, the large majority of those people are still on season-long (leagues),” Wexler said in an interview this week with Legal Sports Report. “SidePrize is for those people that have more money than time.”

SidePrize also gives the DFS industry what appears to be an easier way to acquire season-long players. Tens of millions play season-long fantasy, but only a fraction of those play DFS regularly, as well.

The platform also creates additional engagement for season-long players. Fantasy players who might be out of the race for the playoffs can still enjoy — or have a monetary rooting interest — in their fantasy teams via SidePrize. No matter how a players’ team is doing in the season-long standings, SidePrize can be used to challenge other league members.

Wexler talks about the possibilities of SidePrize in high-ceiling terms. He related that his company is in talks with “just about every season-long platform out there.” He also unabashedly talks about how the SidePrize product would make a lot of sense for FanDuel or DraftKings in their quest to convert season-long players to DFS.

“We believe that space itself is a multi-billion dollar opportunity, and we’re at the forefront of that movement,” Wexler said.

Legal issues?

Wexler says that the SidePrize is “fully legal” — and obviously at least RotoWire is on the same page. But one could obviously argue this is another example of pushing the boundaries of the fantasy sports carveout under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. SidePrize’s website uses the UIGEA language to stake its claim:

Contests held through SidePrize are part of traditional season-long fantasy sports games, which require players to draft rosters of players to fit specific positions. …

The outcome of SidePrize’s games will be determined by the accumulated statistical performance of the multiple selected players from multiple real-world events.

Wexler makes the argument in these terms:

“We’re not offering wagers — one fantasy player proposes an entry fee to the other for their season-long fantasy weekly matchup, and the winner of a head-to-head match wins a ‘SidePrize’,” he said. “A head-to-head matchup is based on teams that were skillfully constructed at the onset of the season and skillfully adjusted throughout the season-long format — waiver line pickups, bench adjustments, etc.”

“Each team still picked players from multiple teams and there are safeguards to make sure the competition fits within the UIEGA framework,” Schoenke added.

Opponents would put the challenges SidePrize is facilitating in a realm that doesn’t involve as much skill as playing a full-length season-long league or putting together an optimal lineup for DFS contests. (The UIGEA language includes this phrase: “All winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants…”) And state laws often differentiate games of skill from games of chance.

SidePrize is positioning itself under the “fantasy sports” umbrella; there has been nary a legal challenge in the U.S. to anything that terms itself as fantasy, outside of the states where most DFS sites do not operate.

And with that position comes a huge new opportunity: a means to monetize season-long fantasy players in a new way. Which is a prospect that the fantasy industry would love to see come to fruition.

Sign Up For The Grove Report – US Online Gambling Industry Insights Delivered To Your Inbox:
Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.