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This NFL season, FantasyDraft’s players are getting their first chance to compete in a live NFL event. During Week 14 of the NFL season, the Charlotte-based operator will host the “Carolina Million” at Bank of America Stadium in North Carolina.
Twelve qualifiers from the season’s contests will meet for a weekend-long sports trip to the Queen City. The experience culminates in a live contest with a $1 million prizepool.
FantasyDraft explains things on the Carolina Million landing page:
The 12 Finalists will experience an unforgettable live final weekend in Charlotte, NC. Staying at the 5 star Ritz-Carlton for a truly first class weekend, the finalists will watch the Vikings-Panthers game live from a VIP Luxury Suite at Bank of America Stadium. The fun doesn’t end there. The food and drinks will continue from a private venue for the Sunday afternoon NFL games. Take down the top spot and leave Charlotte $200,000 richer as the inaugural Carolina Million Champion!
The package for finalists includes:
The idea behind live events is to bring players from around the country under one roof to compete for huge prizes in person. “The fun doesn’t end there,” as FantasyDraft’s marketing team puts it. Events like these almost always include luxurious accommodations, extravagant parties, and VIP experiences of all sorts.
FantasyDraft has held a live golf event previously, with a much smaller scale.
The number of DFS operators have winnowed down because of a number of factors in the past two years. That includes regulation, legal issues, sites running out of money or stealing player funds and a slowdown of growth for the overall market.
That has left a relatively small pool of DFS operators of any type of side outside of the ‘big two’ of DraftKings and FanDuel. FantasyDraft and Yahoo DFS are the only other platforms of any size using the salary-cap model. Draft and Boom Fantasy offer alternatives to the DFS archetype.
While smaller sites have come and gone, FantasyDraft has persisted and remains one of the few viable competitors offering large cash prizes to its users. The million-dollar live final is the latest evidence of that, as FantasyDraft tries to grow in the wake of paring down of the DFS market.
FantasyDraft also differentiates itself with rake-free head-to-head contests and an entry limit of 50 as opposed to 150 for its biggest contests.
FanDuel recognized the market for live events before any of its competitors were founded.
In 2010, it held the inaugural FanDuel Fantasy Football Championship in Las Vegas. It was the first-ever daily fantasy sports contest to culminate in a live final, and the winner walked away with $25,000.
Things have grown a bit since then.
Within three years, the top prize for FanDuel’s rebranded World Fantasy Football Championship reached a cool million bucks. Travis “TSpiedo” Spieth earned a footnote in the DFS history books with his win in 2013, becoming the industry’s first one-day millionaire.
The marketing potential was huge. Advertising campaigns featured footage of live events and champagne-soaked testimonials from winners. Two years later, the top prize at the live finals soared to $3 million, with user “longbottoms” claiming an enormous score.
DraftKings wasn’t messing about on the live front, either.
It lured professional poker player Jon Aguiar into its fold in 2012 to oversee the events and the VIP experiences surrounding them. The addition gave DraftKings a prime piece of real estate at the intersection of the high-stakes poker and sports betting communities.
DraftKings rolled out its first live event in 2014. The Legends Series Fantasy Baseball Championship was held at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, already a well-established destination on the annual poker calendar. DFS legend Peter “CSURAM88” Jennings walked away with the first oversized DraftKings check, good for $1 million.
A few months later, DraftKings returned to Atlantis for its inaugural King of the Beach NFL final. It was covered live by PokerNews and won by Kobe4MVP, a cooperative effort between players Ayton Jankowitz and Aaron Merchak.
By the end of the 2015 NFL season, live events had exploded. DraftKings rebranded its 2015 final as the Fantasy Football World Championship with a total prize pool of $15 million.
Aaron Jones (better known by his poker peers as “aejones”) conquered the two-round FFWC final, further cementing the ties between the two industries. The record-setting $5 million prize is still the largest single payout in DFS history.
Live events have spilled over into other games, too. Basketball and hockey have their own live finals now, in addition to baseball and football. Most recently, FanDuel and DraftKings have added golf finals to its list of live events.
Hosting a live event is a huge undertaking for DFS operators. And it’s not something to be taken lightly, either. Players have grown accustomed to world-class experiences from FanDuel and DraftKings, who’ve spared no expense on events in the past.
Operators across the industry reduced their live prizes for the 2016 sports seasons. FantasyDraft’s entry into the world of live events signals that they feel those marketing dollars are still money well spent.
FantasyDraft is the first DFS operator to announce a live NFL final for the upcoming 2017 season.