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Most people associate daily fantasy sports with the salary-cap contests that operators like DraftKings and FanDuel offer. But the industry has branched out into a number of alternative and nontraditional formats. Some of those come pretty close to approximating sports betting.
USFantasy is one of them, and it’s decided to make a real run in the US market. The pari-mutuel-based fantasy operator has launched a new mobile app available to users in 23 states.
USFantasy’s DFS format is pretty unique. First of all, it started primarily as a business-to-business platform, built into gaming terminals and licensed to land-based operators for use in their establishments.
It also differs in its core format. USFantasy uses the pari-mutuel elements of horse racing as the foundation for its contests.
Athletes are assigned odds that they will score the most fantasy points at their position. As with racing, the odds fluctuate, and prizes are awarded for those who win, place, or show — that is, finish first, second or third in their respective categories. Exotic bets, like exactas and daily doubles are also in play.
The app has few frills, but it lets you easily quickly place wagers. Tracking your bets is not as interactive as many DFS players or sports bettors might be used to.
The games are live across most major team sports.
The new USFantasy app is available in 23 states, generally in places that have favorable laws for “games of skill” or paid-entry fantasy sports:
Nevada is an active market, but it’s ring-fenced, so it will be served by its own dedicated platform, once the app is approved by gaming regulations. USFantasy was the very first DFS site to receive a license in Nevada.
President Vic Salerno cited two criteria that USFantasy considered when deciding which states the app would serve: “States where it’s legal and we can afford to go, we go,” he said.
Those with no regulatory requirements, like California, represent the easiest targets.
USFantasy doesn’t bother going where the current climate is unfavorable to DFS, like Texas and Florida. For now, states with prohibitive licensing fees or taxes are off the table, too. That includes a few big markets like New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Salerno hopes that USFantasy can move into more states as it continues to grow.
USFantasy contests are as close as you can get to sports betting while falling under the definition of “fantasy sports.”
The company has a a sister business called USBookmaking, which seems to be where the business is heading. Salerno is the man behind both, and he comes from an extensive sports betting background. In fact, he’s the only sportsbook executive who’s a member of the American Gaming Association Hall of Fame.
In a conversation with Legal Sports Report, Salerno spoke openly about his vision.
“I feel that there are people who just play fantasy sports, so there is a market there,” he said. “But a lot of our customers do both. In jurisdictions where we can do bookmaking, we’re going to do that.”
Salerno said his sites plan to offer both DFS and sports betting in “most places” where there is the opportunity to do so.
While other operators seem to be focusing on the Northeast and Great Lakes regions for sports betting, USFantasy is pining for a chance in California. Salerno called it “the biggest thing right now” for his company.
It’s going to take some time for either the fantasy or sports betting product to establish a substantial foothold. In particular, USF is also going to need to find existing land-based partners in states where it wants to expand its sports wagering business.
Salerno is already a bit uneasy with some of the legislative movement, too. Since 1992, single-game wagering has been illegal outside of Nevada under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). There is a growing movement to see that act struck down, though. It’s one of the possible outcomes in the New Jersey sports betting case awaiting a verdict in the US Supreme Court.
States are beginning to pass sports betting bills in anticipation of a favorable ruling, but there are big issues arising in Salerno’s eyes.
Some proposed state legislation contains high tax rates and other requirements that are untenable for small operators. He believes that there’s a lot of work left to do to ensure that the legal, regulated market is the one that’s attractive to bettors.
“PASPA was the greatest thing that ever happened for illegal bookmakers,” Salerno said. “And the repeal of PASPA could be the best thing that’s ever happened to them, too.”