FanDuel does not serve Texas after settlement with AG
Legal Sports Report

DraftKings Messing With Texas: Fantasy Sports Site Hosts Event In State Despite Lack Of Legal Clarity

DraftKings Texas live event
Almost two years ago, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton opined that daily fantasy sports are illegal gambling under state law.

But that’s not going to stop DraftKings from hosting a live event in the state in 2018, despite an active court case about its status in Texas.

King of San Antonio at a glance

Qualifiers are live for DraftKings’ first NBA live event of 2018. The King of San Antonio runs on January 27 with a $200,000 prize pool.

The King of San Antonio promotion requires a two-step qualification process.

The preliminary round is under way on the client, and two spots have been claimed so far. Users “dawahoon” and “bquicksix” won the first $20 qualifiers, earning their tickets to the second round.

A total of 30 players will qualify for the online semifinal, where they’ll each be guaranteed to win at least $4,000. The top 12 scorers advance to the live event in San Antonio to play for the top prize of $25,000.

The San Antonio package includes:

  • Three-night hotel stay
  • $1,000 airfare credit for two
  • Two tickets to 76ers vs. Spurs game

That’s taking place despite the murky legal environment for Texas DFS.

DraftKings, FanDuel and Texas

In January 2016, Paxton said his piece about the legality of DFS in his state. That led to FanDuel entering into a settlement with Paxton and leaving Texas.

DraftKings, however, entered into no such agreement, and actually went to court, seeking to get a declaratory judgement asserting its legality.

Since then, Texas’ lawmakers considered a bill to legalize DFS earlier this year, but the legislation did not reach the finish line. The legislature is not back in session until 2019.

DraftKings, of course, already operates online contests in the state, so the hosting of a live DFS event is just a matter of degree. But still, DraftKings is involved in active litigation with the AG’s office, with a court date scheduled for August.

Given that there are 17 states that have formally legalized DFS and a variety of others where there is far less legal uncertainly, it’s an odd choice for a live event.

DraftKings’ other live events

DraftKings seems to be pushing hard on the live front these days. The King of San Antonio is one of five live events for which qualifiers are currently under way.

The Fantasy Football Championship Series features two events in Miami this year:

  • Fantasy Football World Championship — 200 qualifiers, $12 million prize pool; $2 million top prize
  • Pick’Em Championship — 100 qualifiers, $500,000 prize pool, $100,000 top prize

Those two championships will be held during Week 15, but there’s another live event in the meantime. The popular King of the Beach gives 180 qualifiers a chance to play for a $100,000 top prize during Week 13. The top 50 players will compete live in Key West.

DraftKings also partnered with the World Poker Tour to offer qualifiers for the WPT European Championship in Berlin. Eight players will earn $7,400 packages to compete in the live poker event, which has a €1 million guaranteed prize pool.

Although it hasn’t been announced yet, DraftKings will almost certainly run another Fantasy Basketball World Championship this season, too. Last season’s big NBA event paid out $4 million in prizes.

DFS goes regional for live events

Daily fantasy sports sites have been hosting live events for years, and they often award the biggest payouts of the season. The events have historically been held in world-class destinations like Las Vegas and Miami.

Some of that ambition remains intact, with DraftKings set to head to south Florida once again.

FanDuel prefers Los Angeles, and its football championship events have centered around experiences at the Playboy Mansion and a Southern California resort this season. Its basketball championship, though, is moving from Miami to Springfield, Mass., and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s a logical spot for basketball fans, but Springfield is not exactly on a list of top US tourist destinations.

FantasyDraft is getting into the business of event planing, too. It announced its first major live event close to home, the Carolina Millions in Charlotte, N.C. It’s another destination that makes sense — FantasyDraft is based in North Carolina — but again, it’s no Vegas.

Although some of these destinations don’t carry the ‘wow factor’ of Las Vegas or Miami, they do provide the same chance to engage users in a live setting. And the two operators have historically put on a good show no matter which city they visit.

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Eric Ramsey
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Eric is a reporter and writer covering poker, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.