Given the quick rise and subsequent troubles of daily fantasy sports, no one had attempted to write a book taking a macro look at the DFS industry.
That changed with the release of “Daily Fantasy Sports: The Impact of Fantasy Sports in America Today,” by Jay Correia.
The book is not a perfect encapsulation of the DFS industry, and how it got to where it is — both for better and for worse. But it is the first honest attempt at looking at the big picture following a period of explosive growth and the legal turmoil surrounding in the industry in the past six months.
You can learn more about the book and how to purchase it here.
DFS: The book, at a glance
The book comes at DFS from a wholly industry perspective — which is both good and bad in the telling of the DFS story — although the former outweighs the latter in the form of the insight Correia provides.
The author is the founder of DreamCo Design, a company that designs, develops and markets websites and apps for the fantasy sports industry. He’s also an advisory board member for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, working on legislative issues.
With his background, he looks at DFS through the lens of both an industry insider — along with the access and perspective that provides — and a proponent of small businesses (i.e. fantasy companies beyond DraftKings and FanDuel).
Correia said he decided to write the book in the fall of last year — after the now famous DraftKings data leak — when meeting with a colleague at a lunch meeting:
“I thought it was unbelievable how all of this was just swirling around this industry, and there was so much misinformation out there,” Correia said of the decision to write a book in an interview with Legal Sports Report. “If you’re going to consider any laws or make a judgement on DFS, I wanted to make sure there was some type of neutral information out there. … That’s what motivated me personally.”
Correia also said he tries to look at the industry from a candid perspective, examining what could be done better in terms of allowing the entire industry to prosper moving forward.
“I think collectively the industry is a good thing … but there are definitely problems, and things that need to be solved and when you beat around the bush and don’t talk about it, or try to come up with solutions, then you’re never going to get there,” Correia said.
Correia also gets at his aim in the book’s introduction:
The purpose of this book is to help better educate the public and those with political power about daily fantasy sports. It’s a rally call for being pro-business. It’s about standing up for innovation. It’s about protecting the little guy and asking our lawmakers to please take a chill-pill before jumping to any conclusions. If you are a heavy regulator, skewed lobbyist, suppressor, or socialist, you probably won’t find joy in reading this book, but everyone has a chance to repent!
The good and the bad from the DFS book
Learning about the overall DFS industry, whether you’re a fantasy player or not, is no easy task. One of the few ways to do it would be to seek out and read massive amounts of mainstream media stories about the industry. And, as Correia points out in his book, media accounts don’t always provide an accurate or detailed picture of the industry, as it is currently situated.
So, Correia undertook the task of explaining how we got to the current point in time and where we might be headed. The book is a non-fiction work with lots of opinion and analysis worked in, some of which I can agree with and appreciate, some of which I disagree with.
Skill or gambling?
The book starts with a chapter that makes the argument that DFS is not gambling — a stance with which I’m on record as disagreeing with. The opening sentence of the book:
Fantasy sports is not gambling, it is a game of skill. That is not an opinion. It is an easily provable and consistently repeatable fact.
However, many people outside of the DFS industry — me included — can agree that DFS is a form of skill-based gambling. Who is right could be considered a game of semantics, except for the fact the current legality of DFS generally hinges on whether it is a “bona fide contest of skill” or doesn’t otherwise run afoul of state gambling laws.
Continuing to have the debate about skill vs. chance in DFS is a pretty fruitless exercise, at this point. Those inside and outside the industry have pretty much agreed to disagree on this front, and both sides of the argument aren’t going to be persuaded away from their beliefs.
The chapter does detail how much skill is involved in DFS, which is accurate, if not the strongest starting point for the book.
Explaining the industry
Correia does a great job explaining the industry for those who play either DFS, season-long fantasy, or perhaps aren’t that familiar with the industry beyond a base-level understanding.
Several chapters detail the mechanics and logistics of the industry from both a macro and micro perspective, such as:
- “The Types of Daily Fantasy Games”
- “How to be Good at Fantasy Sports”
- “The Sharks & Players”
Correia does a deep dive into the demographics of DFS players, and what motivates them, in chapter four.
Fantasy sports have always involved putting your skills to the test against others, usually for money. It is just now being portrayed that way as the primary reason one should play.
That’s kind of a shame. Sure, you can win money. You can win a lot of money, actually. It should be part of some of the ads. The fantasy sports industry just needs to remember where it came from and not completely abandon its roots that largely involve playing because it’s fun to play fantasy sports.
If you just want to learn about the industry — outside of all the legal machinations across the country — the book is a good starting point.
The industry perspective on regulation, legality
Perhaps the most valuable thing Correia does is sum up how the DFS industry feels about where it’s situated, how it got here, and where it’s going.
A chapter titled “Thoughts from the Industry” gets a wide range of industry stakeholders on the record, in many instances offering a refreshingly honest take. Both FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles and DraftKings CEO Jason Robins spoke with Correia for the book about the future of DFS regulation:
Eccles, from Chapter 9:
“I never thought daily fantasy sports would live in an unregulated world forever and I don’t think not being regulated is an option at this point. We don’t have control over regulation or anything that involves the regulation process. If the bills that are being proposed end up dying than we will very likely lose the state. We can’t lose momentum on the legislative side or we are dead. For the industry, it is very important that we stay united on this.”
“The reality is that everyone is going to have to pay something to operate and we are just going to have to embrace it. It is frankly ridiculous to think that we are arguing for more regulation. We just can’t go back to two years ago. We either face being exterminated in several states or we embrace regulation and try to do as much as we can to protect everybody.”
Correia also offers prescriptive advice for the industry moving forward, including being more active in self regulation while waiting for government regulation to promulgate in various jurisdictions:
While the FSTA leadership absolutely deserves credit for the amount of time it has already invested in trying to help influence state specific regulation, I believe it is failing to communicate consistently and is, unfortunately, in reactionary mode. That is the part that needs to change. Right now, no self-regulatory guidelines are published by the FSTA aside from the “paid entry contest operator charter” webpage found on the FSTA website. The webpage articulates many of the same guidelines I suggested in Chapter 10, but the “operator charter” is almost completely neglected for all intents and purposes. No one ever talks about it and very few people within the FSTA know that it even exists.
Who’s to blame?
Correia goes down the path of saying the legal troubles of the daily fantasy sports industry can largely be attributed to the commercial casino industry and a negative attorney general opinion that came out of Nevada in the middle of October.
Las Vegas just wants to throw its weighted influence around. It is jealous about the success of fantasy sports and sees daily fantasy sports as a threat even though it really isn’t. It thereby opted to go after daily fantasy sports when it thought the industry was most vulnerable and that action has perked up legislators across the country.
More or less, they are attempting to set off a precedence wave. Their hope is to get other states to follow their lead so that the fantasy sports industry will be damaged, destroyed, or put in a position where it is heavily taxed and regulated.
This, again, is a matter of analysis, with which you either agree or disagree; a lot of people, myself included, would argue the industry itself is more to blame than anyone for the legal morass.
The American Gaming Association — which lobbies for the commercial casino industry — is on record as wanting regulation and legal clarity on DFS. (Obviously you can doubt what the AGA says and its motives, if you wish). And the commercial casino industry is putting up a fight in some states (see Illinois), while in others it has let legislation move forward without much, or any, opposition (see Indiana).
Also, I’d argue that the legal action from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — telling DraftKings and FanDuel to cease and desist in the state — was far more damaging to the long-term prospects of the DFS industry. Schneiderman was already calling DFS sites “totally unregulated gambling venues” a week before the Nevada action came down, making it fairly clear his mind had already been made up.
Conclusion: Worth a read
I don’t agree with every last word that Correia wrote. And people both inside and outside of the industry will take issue with some of his conclusions.
What I can tell you is that Correia wrote the book with a lot of passion, which comes out in his writing. And in my discussions with him — and from reading the book — I know he has thought at length about the future of the DFS industry. He talked to 50 people specifically for the book in addition to calling on his history in the industry.
For a book to be a valuable read or resource, you don’t to agree with all of it. Sometimes, it just needs to make you think. Correia is attempting to start a larger conversation about the DFS industry that might be best held in public.
Agreeing or disagreeing with what he has to write is almost beside the point. The point is for the industry, and for the people who play fantasy sports, to have a real discussion about what’s next.
Correia’s book is not going to be the last one written about the DFS industry. But it is the first, and for now it provides a jumping off point for industry self-reflection, which in my eyes is a worthwhile endeavor.