“While some consumers play both full-season and short-duration fantasy sports games, there does seem to be a distinction in the core fan base of each,” Edelman said. “The earliest participants in daily fantasy sports do seem to have emerged from the poker world.”
The first site offering daily fantasy was DraftDay in 2010. But it wasn't until Black Friday that the idea really took off. By 2012, a bunch of sites offering the service had popped up. They include DraftHero, Draftster, DraftTeam, SwaggerStadium, FantasyFeud, SportsTradex, and current industry leaders, FanDuel and DraftKings.
In 2011, Peter Jennings, now 26, had just graduated college and was making a living playing online poker.
"After Black Friday,” Jennings said, “I went straight into finance as a stockbroker, working at Charles Schwab. But I quickly realized that daily fantasy was beginning to boom and the market was inefficient. I went with fantasy because I realized this was going to be a better opportunity. Instead of competing against the whole market, you are just competing against a few other people, and it's all based on your sports knowledge and research."
Jennings’s choice has paid off. He has won FanDuel's $150,000 football championship prize, and just raked in $1 million at DraftKings fantasy baseball championship in the Bahamas.
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At first, the big pro sports leagues resisted daily fantasy, concerned about even a hint of association with gambling. But they seem to be coming around to the idea.
Robert Bowman, head of MLB Advanced Media and a candidate to follow Bud Selig as baseball commissioner, once was a vocal opponent of daily fantasy. Last year in connection with New Jersey's efforts to legalize sports betting, Bowman told The New York Times that he saw daily fantasy as “akin to a flip of the coin, which is the definition of gambling.”
But he has since emerged as a big advocate for single-day play. Major League Baseball has signed a sponsorship with DraftKings as the “Official Mini-Game of MLB.” The Boston-based site also just acquired two competitors and announced a big influx of cash—$41 million of new venture capital. Rival FanDuel, not to be outdone, raised $70 million the following week.
The NBA, too, seems to be changing its stance on betting. Speaking last week at Bloomberg Sports Business Summit, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said “It's inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada. We will ultimately participate in that."
Edelman called Silver's comments “refreshingly honest.”
“Pro sports leagues want to expand into Europe where sports betting is already legal,” he said. “To do so, they will have to step away from their longstanding opposition to betting on sports."
The U.S., he said, will ultimately move in one of two directions, either adopting far stricter laws on sports gaming or, alternatively, legalizing the whole shebang. “Among those two alternatives” Edelman said, “the latter is far more likely."
Which would be one more sign of Puritanism’s loosening grip: A U.S. where betting is common, government-sanctioned, and—legally anyway—considered simply another form of entertainment no more or less moral than seeing a movie.