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But even in the current uncertain legal environment, two new entries into the daily fantasy market have come early in 2016 — one from well-known poker pro Phil Ivey, the other a startup that got more than a million dollars in funding.
Ivey’s foray into daily fantasy sports was announced on Thursday. His venture will be called PhilIveyDFS on the iTEAM Network — a white-label fantasy provider — with a planned launch in February.
Ivey is one of the most famous poker players on the planet — he is a winner of 10 World Series of Poker bracelets — and the cross-over between poker and DFS has been well-established.
Gabe Hunterton, CEO of iTEAM, had this to say in a press release on the launch:
“We are always looking for quality brands and partners in the world of fantasy sports. There is no elite-level individual that fans want to follow and learn from more than Phil Ivey. Phil’s team engaged in extended due diligence, which we welcomed in light of our commitment to conservative regulatory practices and great user experiences.”
And from Ivey:
“Over the past few years I’ve been looking for more ways to share with fans my perspective on Daily Fantasy Sports,” said Ivey. “I was honored to have multiple options but iTEAM Network’s focus on compliance and the core technology, along with the leadership of (CEO) Gabe Hunterton, ultimately made it a pretty easy decision.”
iTEAM indicated that it would pay out over $20,000 weekly via pro basketball contests once the Ivey-branded skin goes live.
iTEAM is one of a few DFS networks positioning themselves for operating in regulated markets as a business-to-business product.
Investment funding in the DFS industry has slowed after proceeding at a breakneck pace in 2015. But a new entrant called Boom Fantasy secured $1.4 million for its prediction-based fantasy sports platform, launched last week. The funding round was led by Zynga CEO Mark Pincus.
Boom Fantasy finished up a beta test and went live with a real-money fantasy product this month. The product is currently available in 12 states for real money — California, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia — with free-to-play contests everywhere.
The platform asks players to answer a series of questions or propositions regarding sporting events (for example, will x player score more than x points in the upcoming quarter?). Here’s the description from Boom:
All real-money tournaments incorporate multiple events, but are centered on a primary game where players compete against one another by answering between 7 to 50 questions, depending on the tournament format
“Just as DraftKings and FanDuel improved upon the old fantasy sports model, we are doing the same with daily fantasy sports,” said Stephen Murphy, co-founder and CEO of Boom Fantasy, in a press release on the launch. “At Boom, we cater to real fans who actually want to watch the games – not necessarily the number-crunchers who use complicated algorithms to outperform other lineups.”
Some may question if Boom would fit under the “skill game” laws in some jurisdictions, although it’s at least a peer-to-peer game, unlike some house-banked proposition-type bets taken by some sites under the umbrella of “fantasy sports” and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act carveout.
In-game fantasy sports and sports betting are still in their formative stages in the U.S., although live sports betting is already popular in Europe.
But in-game types of contests could be the future of the market. ESPN did a piece last year called “The Inevitable Rise of Real-Time Fantasy Sports.”
There are several examples of in-game sports prediction or fantasy platforms on the market, such as Fanamana, ringit! by iPro and PickChamps, to name a few (this is not meant to be an exhaustive list). Even FanDuel had an NBA in-game product planned called FanDuel Turbo that appears to have been shelved for now.
Putting money into Boom Fantasy or the fantasy sports industry right now may seem like a risky proposition to some. But Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, speaking at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Winter Conference, suggested the current environment is good for getting into the industry:
— Mike Jordan (@FantasyWSL) January 20, 2016
Cuban also put his money where his mouth is, investing in fantasy sports analytics site Fantasy Labs recently.
The salad days of huge sums of money being thrown around the industry might be over, but innovation and investment have a place in the present and future of the DFS market.