Amaya's Daily Fantasy Offering Goes Conservative to Start
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PokerStars Really Is Averse To DFS Overlay As Victiv Rolls Out NFL Contests

Victiv
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Daily fantasy sports site Victiv — acquired by Amaya earlier this month as PokerStars’ DFS platform — recently revealed its NFL contests.

And if we didn’t believe that Amaya wasn’t going big this NFL season by listening to its CEO, it’s now obvious the online gaming giant is just dipping its toe in the water on DFS, at least for now.

Victiv’s initial contests

Victiv will eventually be rebranded as StarsDraft, but that migration hasn’t happened yet. So the contests based on Week 1 of NFL season are live at Victiv’s website, which is pointed to via StarsDraft.com.

When Amaya CEO David Baazov talked about the acquisition of Victiv earlier this month during an earnings call, he didn’t mince words when he tamped down expectations for rollout:

“To just put up overlay to try and attract customers in the short term and don’t have any return right now, is not going to be a focus for us.”

How seriously Amaya would stick to its guns on this front wasn’t clear, but after the NFL contests appeared, it’s pretty clear Baazov was telling the truth. Victiv is featuring $185,000 in guarantees across its top five contests — $100,000 in its biggest.

Certainly, that’s much bigger than the guaranteed prize pools for Week 1 contests Victiv put up last year on launch. It’s possible — perhaps even likely — that this surpasses the amount of money Victiv would have guaranteed without the backing and support of PokerStars/Amaya.

The $100K contest isn’t even the biggest contest in the site’s history, in the wake of last December’s $300,000 Victiv Bowl Championship. (To be fair, that was an online “final” for which players qualified throughout the NFL season.)

For comparison’s sake, a rundown of other sites for Week 1

Clearly, Victiv/StarsDraft is nowhere near the DraftKings/FanDuel echelon, where millions of dollars are guaranteed.

So where does Victiv sit in the next tier of operators? Across all its GPP contests, Victiv is guaranteeing more than $190,000, when smaller contests are considered.

  • Yahoo is guaranteeing more than $1.5 million in Week 1, including a $1 million contest with a $10 buy-in.
  • FantasyDraft is going big again in Week 1 with more than $450,000 guaranteed, including a quarter of a million in its top contest.
  • Fantasy Feud is guaranteeing more than $230,000 across all its contests, including qualifiers for its $1 million final.
  • Fantasy Aces also has more than $230,000 guaranteed, across qualifiers for its $500K live final and cash guarantees.
  • Draft Ops is guaranteeing nearly $40,000.

Obviously, that puts Victiv in the middle of the next-tier operators, as far as guarantees go. However, both Yahoo and FantasyDraft seem likely to be offering some overlay, and possibly quite a lot.

That means Victiv is more in line with Fantasy Feud and Fantasy Aces, who are guaranteeing a fair amount of money but also aren’t risking paying out a ton of overlay. Of course, if Victiv is successful in selling out these contests — or at least offering little overlay — we may see bigger contests in short order.

Still, even with expectations set low, it’s a surprise to some that Amaya’s contests are this conservative.

So what’s it all mean for Victiv/StarsDraft?

It mostly means what we’ve thought ever since the acquisition happened, and what Amaya had told us. Namely, Amaya isn’t in any rush on daily fantasy sports, and it’s not interested in spending the massive amounts of money that it currently takes to compete with the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings.

We’re still not sure what Amaya’s endgame for DFS is, at this point:

  • Does it believe it can still compete at the top tier of the North American market down the road?
  • Is it simply keeping up its brand recognition in the U.S. in the hopes of entering current and future regulated markets for online gambling, poker and sports betting?
  • Is it focusing on leveraging the DFS platform in all of the jurisdictions where it currently holds gaming licenses, with plans to take fantasy more global?

It’s unclear that we’ll find out the answer to the question this year. We may have until 2016 or beyond to see how serious Amaya is about committing serious resources to its DFS efforts.

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.
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