Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fantasy sports site draftkings.com has one-day football contest with $250,000 in prizes

In Jason Robins' perfect world, he would be playing a professional sport.

"Unfortunately," he said, laughing, "I'm not good enough to play any of them" at that level.

But Robins said he can analyze statistics and follow player trends, and his competitive urge to show off that knowledge led him to fantasy sports websites. "I can't even remember how long I've been playing," he said.

But for Robins of Boston and a couple of his fantasy-playing buddies, that wasn't enough. So they found some investors — getting $1.4 million in seed money, the Boston Business Journal reported — ditched their corporate executive jobs and in April launched a fantasy site of their own, draftkings.com.

They also devised what they believe is a unique way to drive eyeballs, and perhaps dollars, to their site: a one-day football contest with $250,000 in prizes, including $100,000 to the winner.

"You sit down in the morning, and by the end of the day you have $100,000 in your account," Robins said in a phone interview. "That's a pretty exciting idea."

Sunday's game is limited to 1,400 participants. Registration is $200.

"We're anxious to see what happens," Robins said.

What could happen is the contest clears $30,000; 1,400 players at $200 each equals $280,000. That would be a modest payout, and Robins, 32, said he and partners Matt Kalish, 31, and Paul Liberman, 29, could have allowed more contestants.

"But I worried that if people thought we were taking too high a percentage, they wouldn't want to play," Robins said. "We're looking at the payoff more in terms of attracting new players. … My guess is we could lose a pretty substantial amount of money on this, but I wouldn't consider it a loss, per se, because I think it gives us an opportunity to get the word out about this."

Fantasy sports websites offering monetary prizes occupy an interesting niche. Though players risk money and can win or lose, it is not considered gambling, which is illegal on the Internet in the United States.

Credit the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act of 2006.

"What that federal law did is say fantasy-type sports games are exempt because they take skill," said Boston business attorney Travis Jacobs.

In other words, winning is not predominantly based on chance but by "accumulating statistical results of sporting events," the act says.

Prizes, the act says, also must be "established in advance."

What's been the reaction to DraftKing's $250,000 challenge? As of midnight Thursday, without much publicity, 613 of 1,400 spots were claimed.

Whatever the final count, Robins figures it will be worth it to further boost a site that in November had its best month, with 263,615 unique visitors, says compete.com, which monitors web-based fantasy sports traffic.

"We wanted to do something big that would draw people in," he said. "Even if it cost us some money, we thought the amount of interest it could attract by doing something this size would be worth it."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

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