DraftKings Says No Cheating Occurred During Incident

DraftKings, Fantasy Sports Trade Association Working On ‘Detailed Policy’ After Data Leak

DraftKings policy
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The Fantasy Sports Trade Association and DraftKings offered new statements in the wake of a barrage of media coverage that followed a leak of DraftKings lineup information.

The top-level takeaways:

  • DraftKings confirmed that it believes that no wrongdoing took place that affected the integrity of its games, or those at FanDuel.
  • New policies regarding data security and game integrity will be worked on by the industry.
  • Employees at DraftKings and FanDuel are no longer allowed to play daily fantasy sports for cash.

The background of the data leak

The statements came in response to the leaking of player lineup data at DraftKings that happened last week, which sparked conversation on daily fantasy sports forums and social media, in addition to reports by the New York Times and The Associated Press.

The episode has generated questions about which DraftKings employees have access to potentially sensitive data that could affect game integrity, what data is available, and oversight of the DFS industry. For more on the background of the story, read our Q&A.

Daily fantasy sports operates in an unregulated environment, and the data leak — and the industry’s reaction to it — has led some to say that regulation of the industry is needed immediately.

DraftKings and FanDuel offered a joint statement on Monday morning, but after widespread media coverage — much of it negative in nature — more response came later in the day.

What the DraftKings statement said

DraftKings made its own statement on Monday night, attempting to clear up information about the person at the center of controversy — DraftKings written content manager Ethan Haskell. DraftKings said Haskell did not have access to the data in question at a time that would have given him a competitive advantage in playing DFS contests. (Of note is that prior to today, DraftKings employees were reportedly not able to play in DraftKings contests, only at contests at other DFS sites.)

Here is the full statement, as related in a story at Fortune:

There has been some confusion regarding a recent piece of data that was inadvertently posted on DraftKings’ blog containing information about players and fantasy games. Some reports are mischaracterizing the situation and implying that there was wrongdoing. We want to set the record straight. For the last several days, DraftKings has been conducting a thorough investigation, including examining records of internal communications and access to our database, interviewing our employees, and sharing information regarding the incident with FanDuel. The evidence clearly shows that the employee in question did not receive the data on player utilization until 1:40 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 27. Lineups on FanDuel locked at 1:00 p.m. that day, at which point this employee (along with every other person playing in a FanDuel contest) could no longer edit his player selections. This clearly demonstrates that this employee could not possibly have used the information in question to make decisions about his FanDuel lineup. Again, there is no evidence that any information was used to create an unfair advantage, and any insinuations to the contrary are factually incorrect.

What the FSTA statement said

The FSTA statement came late Monday night via the FSTA website. This statement addressed the incident in vague terms, but it was crafted to deal with industry-wide concerns about game integrity, and specifically employees’ abilities to take part in DFS contests.

Here is the full text:

(Chicago, IL)  – The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), DraftKings and FanDuel have always understood that nothing is more important than the integrity of the games we offer to fans. For that reason, the FSTA has included in its charter that member companies must restrict employee access to and use of competitive data for play on other sites. At this time, there is no evidence that any employee or company has violated these rules. That said, the inadvertent release of non-public data by a fantasy operator employee has sparked a conversation among fantasy sports players about the extent to which industry employees should be able participate in fantasy sports contests on competitor sites. We’ve heard from users that they would appreciate more clarity about the rules for this issue. In the interim, while the industry works to develop and release a more detailed policy, DraftKings and FanDuel have decided to prohibit employees from participating in online fantasy sports contests for money.

Whether this statement was planned before the onslaught of media coverage is unknown, although, given its timing, it seems reasonable to assume that it was made in response to the widespread coverage that broke on Monday evening.

The charter mentioned — the “Paid Entry Contest Operator Charter” — does indeed talk about restricting employee access to sensitive data. However, the FSTA, as currently constructed, does not undertake “to audit or regulate member companies,” per language from the charter.

DraftKings’ “Terms of Use” appears to still make it possible for employees to play at DraftKings:

DraftKings

What we’re still waiting to hear

The statement still leaves up in the air many of the central questions about the DFS industry that have been generated in the wake of the scandal, including:

  • Which staff members, and how many, are seeing data like the information that was leaked, or have access to it?
  • What other data could these employees access that would be of use in setting lineups?
  • What precautions are being taken to keep the data from leaking?

The “policy” changes mentioned by the FSTA appear to be aimed at the last of these points. Whether operators or the FSTA will offer answers to any of the above questions is still up in the air.

DraftKings co-founder Matt Kalish had earlier told the website RotoGrinders that DK’s Monday statement would “detail how this information is currently protected from employees.” So far, that information has not been provided.

Employees being unable to play DFS clears up some of the concerns of industry observers, but it clearly does not cover all possible issues. Useful DFS lineup data could obviously be used by non-employees, should they be able to gain access to it.

The statement from the FSTA also leaves the status of dozens of other operators in limbo — DraftKings and FanDuel are the only sites mentioned. Will other sites be expected to join the moratorium on employees playing DFS?

The statements provide more information than the industry had previously, but DraftKings likely has more work to do to alleviate concerns of both players and those that are watching the industry closely as it deals with a crisis.

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.