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Vulcun — which launched in January of last year with fantasy eSports based on games like League of Legends — announced that “paid fantasy” would no longer be available in the near future. From Vulcun’s blog:
After careful consideration (and much heartache), we’ve decided to phase out paid fantasy on Vulcun. Once the new season of the LCS begins on January 14th, 2016, we will no longer offer paid contests on Vulcun. This change only affects the PAID ($$) Fantasy portion of our website. Gold betting, Gold Fantasy Contests, Marketplace, Lootdrop, and Jackpot will all continue on as normal.
Vulcun indicated that withdrawals must be completed before February 5, after which time player funds will be converted to the on-site currency, “gold.” Users have been informed via email and pending bonuses will also expire at that time.
There are currently no legal options for placing wagers on esports from the United States. Players from outside the U.S. have a number of esports betting options, including:
Fantasy esports sites like Vulcun play a relatively minor role in the broader market for esports betting. While the rise and fall of Vulcun was dramatic, the contribution of fantasy esports sites to the total revenue pie for esports wagers is generally considered insignificant.
Why the move? Vulcun said that legal issues cropping up around the United States made the move necessary:
We’re eSports fanatics first, and fantasy to us was a way of making eSports more engaging and fun. However the current legal landscape in the United States has made this difficult. Rather than trying to figure this situation out state by state, we’ve decided to focus our energies on things that ALL our users can enjoy vs. those in select geographies. We’re sad to see (paid) fantasy go, but ultimately it allows us to focus on building a better product that serves our mission.
While Vulcun launched as a fantasy eSports site only, the company says its focus will merely shift to other offerings it has developed in the past year that are different than real-money fantasy. Vulcun said only about 10 percent of its active user base played in paid fantasy contests last month.
Clearly Vulcun still has designs on being a key player in providing engagement in eSports; that engagement will no longer come with real-money entry fees for cash payouts.
Fantasy eSports was poised to be a major segment in 2016 and beyond, at least before the legal and media scrutiny that has developed in recent months.
Vulcun launched in January 2015 with relatively little fanfare, and originally guaranteed $250,000 in payouts in 2015. That figure quickly ballooned to $1 million and later $10 million for the calendar year.
The site also raised $12 million in investment funding in April, just months after it went live.
The bottom line: the underpinnings of the once-burgeoning fantasy eSports industry are now in question, just a few months after it appeared to be on its way to dramatic growth.