In Fantasy Sports, Signs of Insiders’ Edge

Records and interviews show a pattern of overlapping interests at DraftKings and FanDuel, websites where a small number of players are dominant, able to capitalize on advantages.

Comments: 59

  1. The continual solicitation of gambling during sports events increasing and rapidly is making watching the events distasteful no matter the actual game. Players, owners, announcers are all part of the gambling push in a way I have never come close to experiencing before.

    I am deeply offended and will surely be watching less. This ceaseless gambling push can only end badly.

  2. "Justine Sacco, a spokeswoman for FanDuel, said DraftKings employees had won less than $10 million in her company’s contests."

    Wait what? Is that the same Justine Sacco of #HasJustineLandedYet fame? ...because if it is, that's pretty funny ...

  3. I'm very much with you on this. With the constant barrage of gambling ads and that's what FD and DK are, it makes it less watchable to me. The fact that there is insider trading rigging the betting is no surprise. What is surprising is that this is legal. Casino gambling is a highly regulated activity. This is not.

  4. Who cares what idiots do with their time and money?

  5. I kind of care. Even idiots shouldn't be cheated by cheats.

  6. Because it's unethical, that's why.

    And even in the dog-eat-dog world where anything goes, there's a part of us that should hurt when people are cheated and taken advantage of -- even if we think they should know better.

  7. Next time that kindly man from Nigeria calls your grandmother tell her to go ahead and pay that fee to get the $10 million that will be sent soon after. Same thing basically.

  8. Before Black Friday shut down US facing poker sites, certain sites had software installed that could check the hole card of players for "security" reasons. It was alleged that some employees and owners of the sites solicited whales to play, while knowing their hole card. What a surprise to see Fantasy Sports gambling firms recruiting from the poker industry as detailed in this excellent article.

  9. Great article. We all have been talking how much money Draft Kings and those other guys are spending on advertising. As we all know how insider trading works, this is to be expected. I will guess" some lawyers will help us understand how insider information works at Draft Kings. As "we" are not as smart as the people with the insider information. Another system to "game" people. Again, great article. I will share this with people I know. Why am I thinking of day trading?

  10. Gamblers are cheating and they have big money behind them. News? No.

  11. Let's treat adults as adults and let them gamble their money on sports or whatever else strikes their fancy!

  12. Sure, even if the markets are fixed!

    Tough luck, buddy. And thanks for your money, SImon.

  13. Oh hey, a DraftKings or FanDuel employee.

    Just b/c people are free to spend their money how they see fit doesn't mean other people should be free to defraud them.

  14. Executives at DraftKings and FanDuel say that their games are contests of skill, not luck, which is how fantasy sports are not subject to gambling laws.

    But consider: the outcome of these contests relies on the performance of real players in real games who are not in the fantasy world. If I pick Aaron Rodgers, for instance, and he has a four TD day or a four-pick day, I had zero influence. Nothing I do could possibly affect his game-day performance for good or ill.

    Ah, say fantasy defenders: Aaron Rodgers is the easy pick; you win or lose based on the sleepers. And yet, the sleeper picks are themselves not chosen by true expertise. Many of the "sharks" in this article use sophisticated computer algorithms to select low-percentage players for them. If there's "skill" there, it's computer programming.

    By contrast, if I'm an expert poker player, I have far more control over what happens in that game. There is the random luck of the card draw, but my strategy and how well I'm able to bluff my fellow players is entirely down to my abilities versus theirs.

    And yet, which is considered by law a game of chance?

  15. Poker and DFS both involve (1) wagering and (2) a strong potential for disastrous addiction. And notice how the DFS community also uses poker terminology, with "sharks" and "minnows."

    Congress wouldn't tolerate insiders taking money from unsuspecting players in a Las Vegas casino. Congress shouldn't tolerate the DFS insiders doing the same to unsuspecting DFS customers.

  16. The skill isn't influencing Aaron Rodgers performance, it's in predicting he would have that kind of game against a particular opponent, on that day under certain conditions. Randall Cobb going against Richard Sherman? Maybe James Jones will have a bigger day because Cobb's going to be covered. Cold weather and a strong wind? Rodger's minor shoulder injury could be a bigger factor than normal. Packers will run the ball more, lets draft Eddie Lacy...

  17. Sounds a lot like online poker, where mind-numbingly, statistically rare 'bad beats' occur with great regularity!

  18. It's conspiracy, fraud, theft, ... Put these executives in jail and throw away the key.

  19. The lesson in this fantasy sports scandal is that you can't make money consistently in a zero-sum game based on skill alone. You need an "edge," which typically means inside information. Minnows never, ever get an edge.

    Anyone can still play fantasy sports for free, and there are even a few non-gambling ways of winning big money on sports, like the "Billion Dollar Bracket" from a couple of years ago. If you like sports and want to test your prediction skills against others, there's absolutely no reason to fork over any of your hard-earned cash.

  20. And once you add in the rake, the edge you need in DFS or online poker is HUGE. Eventually these online casinos will take all the money out of the market.

  21. Oh the irony of Fan Duel and DraftKings' position that the fantasy leagues are not gambling. Not at all when one side has the insider information and the other side are the unknowing victims.

  22. Just like day traders in the stock market. Best of luck to you but I have better things to do with my hard earned savings.

  23. In addition to the obvious massive misuse of inside information by insiders at one site to profit on the other, investigators should focus on insiders giving the information to their friends; swapping it with insiders at the other company; and trading using false names or accounts set up in the names of relatives or friends.

  24. How does that line from the movie "Casino" go? The only rule is to keep the players playing, because the more they play, the more they lose. In the end, we insiders get it all.

  25. This reminds me of last week's article, "Supreme Court Denies Request to Hear Insider Trading Case."

    This is one the 99% should not get aggravated about. Anyone who assumes that as a retail bettor he or she is operating solely on public information the same as everyone else is either incredibly naive or a recent immigrant from Mars. Of course it is rigged, much the same way most stock purchases and sales are.

    Is anyone surprised insiders use their info, even when they might legitimately try not to? How many of you, when engaged in sports betting, look for tips from "someone in the know" and then don't hesitate to use that info in placing a bet?

    The real culprits here are not so much the individuals who bet (or trade stock) privately for their own profit on inside information, but those sports "analysts" and individuals at brokerages who issue BUY, and SELL recommendations publicly to manipulate a bet or a price, even when they know the value of the bet or stock is really the opposite, this precisely to give themselves or their major clients a great, private advantage.

  26. To Steve Fankuchen: Your comment hits the nail on the head. This story reminds me of the old joke about the woman who comes home to find her naked husband in their bed having sex with a strange woman. He looks up and calmly says to his shocked wife, "Honey, there's nothing going on here! Now who are you going to believe-- me, or your own eyes?" They lived happily ever after.
    Suckers, you've found a new digital home, right at home; no need to pack a bag and fly to Vegas; you can get fleeced hanging out in boxer shorts in your "man cave". FanKings, DraftDuel; one in the same.

  27. I cannot believe the amount of pseudo-intellectual commenting and bad reporting which has surrounded this story. The Times has created the scandal with their shoddy, slanted and ignorant reporting on an industry they so obviously don't understand. But hey, the comments on this story prove that the sheep will eat it up if it comes from the Great and Powerful Times. The term "insider trading" is very misleading in this case. Here's a simple question: what was being "traded"? Secondly, which employees have been reprimanded for their actions or proven guilty of any wrongdoing? Are the facts in yet? Lastly, when did a message board become a source for a piece of journalism? LOL baby boomers think they're sophisticated when they read rubbish like this!!!

  28. Information about what percentage of players owned each athlete, which is hugely valuable. It's definitely cheating, but as I posted above, easy to fix. Just publish that information to everyone. There's no good reason to hide it. In fact, I think the only reason they do hide it, is so that employees can gain an unfair advantage.

  29. There's no reason to keep the insider information out of the public. Just publish the pick break down in (near) real time so all players, not just insiders, can use this information in their analysis. Keep hiding it, and you're guaranteeing more cheating because the stakes are so high.

    The minnow vs whale problem could be similarly solved. Publish each person's record in head to head so that everyone has an equal chance to play against a minnow.

  30. If your part of either of these betting schemes, your crazy. GET A LIFE>

  31. Rigged gambling, pure an simple. What part of that is unclear?

    And I see that ESPN has partnered with one of these two outfits.

    Disney, it seems, is not satisfied with gouging the people attending the parks with massive admission increases. They have some interest in rigged gambling enterprises as well.

  32. I've had all I care to enjoy from these people.

    If the advertising doesn't get scaled WAY back, I'll find something else more productive to do with my Sundays than watch this insanity play out.

    Lots of people are really angry about this.

    Are you listening, Goodell?

    Angry and fed up.

  33. You would have thought after the on going FIFA scandal the geniuses would have gone underground but no they must have graduated from a North Carolina program for football players.
    Try to burn the American financial system, you will eventually get caught. Literally in your early years.

  34. Unfortunately, we only know of those that ARE caught. I have reason to believe that many, many more go uncaught. And so it goes with our so-called business ethics.

  35. Earlier this year I caved into the incessant ads on TV, radio, and plastered all over MLB stadiums and signed up for DraftKings. As a very avid baseball fan and the longtime commissioner of a standard, 12 team fantasy baseball league, I thought I had more than enough background knowledge to compete. To put things in perspective, I recently calculated that I spend well over 20 hours a week on baseball with much of that time directly devoted to fantasy baseball--I listen to fantasy podcasts, read blogs, and do my own play analysis. However, as soon as I entered my first few competitions, it immediately became clear that I was not playing on the same field as many of the other players.

    In order to make money on any one day fantasy site, one really has to devoted him or herself to fantasy sports and make that their job. I fall well beyond the realm of the average joe sports fan and I cannot compete. That's not to say that all of those individuals are working for other sites or using insider information (although that certainly doesn't help) but it does highlight the fact that these websites prey on casual fans who are lured by the big prize money and think that they can compete because they do well in their office fantasy league or watch SportsCenter every night. It's like going to a pool hall and unknowingly entering a tournament where three quarters of the players are amateurs and the rest are professionals.

  36. How many articles full of unverifiable conversations and allusions to "insider trading" will Joe Drape be allowed to write before he's required to provide evidence that DraftKings employees had access to information they're not supposed to have, at times they're not supposed to have it? I have been a reader of the New York Times for decades and my respect for this publication has plummeted with its handling of this story.

  37. Every industry needs an ethical guideline. It seems this industry has none- which isn't really surprising, gambling hasn't been known as an industry focused on moral leadership.

    The fact that they are allowing their employees to take advantage of their customers seems like a bad business move.

  38. Just read between the lines—everything these companies say and do, and not say and not do indicates they are parasites without any integrity.

    Move to ban employees only *after* intense public scrutiny. No comment on the story. No reply to an aggrieved customer until more public scrutiny. Etc. Etc.

    These are just con men with startup money.

  39. What's not mentioned here is the likelihood of fantasy site employees using family and/or friends to play by proxy with their inside information. You can prohibit employees from playing all you want, but they'll find a way around it. This is why regulation is absolutely necessary.

    Also, this is gambling. It's absolutely no different than betting on which horse you think will perform best and win on a given day. The government should set a maximum allowable prize for fantasy leagues, like say, $500, so that company pools and small fun leagues can continue to operate, while these businesses are recognized as the gambling enterprises that they are.

  40. I can't recall which Supreme Court Justice stated he couldn't define porn but knew it when he saw it. If I give you $1 in hopes of a $2 payoff, that is gambling the way I see it. What surprises me, not really, is that these sites didn't have a clause in the employment contract that prohibited participating on other sites.

  41. Is anyone really surprised that the insiders have rigged the system so they can reap a windfall at the expense of their paying customers? Kind of sounds like the stock market, doesn't it?

  42. All gambling is rigged to favor the proprietor from the outset by the way these games are devised. This is just a more flagrant example of rigging.

    Knowing that going into this, why would any sane person engage in gambling? Even when you win the odds, ( a gambling term for the hopelessly adicted

  43. This subject is interesting to me not because of the trading of insider information. That should not surprise anybody and I would rather watch gambling commercials on a Sunday afternoon than watch erectile dysfunction spots.

    What truly interests me is the involvement with sports leagues and team executives. Many will remember when Donald Trump was denied the ability to purchase an NFL franchise because of his investment in an Atlantic City casino.

    Like many other businesses, gambling has moved from "brick and mortar" (casinos) to the internet. What is the difference between the 2? Or, have the leagues changed their policies regarding gambling? Or, are they just cashing the sponsors' checks they are receiving without any regard of their origin?

  44. This could not last anyway...the levels of government want their piece and t hey will get it at some point....both firms will have to "pay off" the feds, states and municipals in some way in order to do business...

    When a company gets very successful....many sit up and take notice see how they can cash in...both companies raised the level of fantasy sport into an industry they are to be congratulated for the ingenuity...with growth come responsibility unfortunately that comes in the form of increased taxes and regulation.

  45. What is the difference between this and being a big fish at a casino? These individuals are also given every allowance and advantage...same principle..the more $ you bet the better they treat you?

  46. Because a big fish at the casino is playing against the house. The daily fantasy whales are preying upon average people AND apparently, they have the benefit of insider information.

  47. These entire endeavors are extremely sleazy.

  48. The real question is why was this permitted by our Congress in the first place. This is gambling and should not be promoted or permitted. Because if this is permitted, then other online gambling should be permitted too.

  49. We worry about the integrity of the game, or at least, we pay lip service to it. What we should be worried about is the integrity of society as a whole. This perversion is just another example of a society that is fast loosing all integrity in the name of winning at all costs. Mean while, the likes of Donald Trump are laughing all the way to the bank!

  50. Yes, it's rigged in favor of the owners. Why would anyone play such a game for money? Because the players' loses, besides going directly into the owners pockets, is also paying for massive, essentially unregulated advertising that purports to be descriptive but in actually is a bunch of carefully manipulated and misleading lies. Oops, I should say misleading "statements" -- the lawyers make certain that you deceive but can't be caught in a legal lie (the outright lies get hidden inside the company, seeing that the public has no access to what goes on there unless an executive slips up and inadvertently spills the beans).

  51. I'm not sure the recently declared "ban" on employees playing each other's fantasy websites will be very effective. It will just force employees to be more clandestine in their gambling activities. They will set up "dummy" accounts using false user profiles. Or they will have friends/relatives act as surrogate account holders.

  52. The ads themselves are like so many ads in our culture: rife with borderline fraud. The implication is that everyone wins, so come get your share,
    newbie!
    How 'bout the car ads, where some of the big numbers on a lease are
    featured prominently, then, in lettering to challenge the eyes, , a charge
    called some version of a "handover" fee - often in the thousands of dollars.

    And what a surprise that the boys at the top of this pyramid of slime are
    from from the same tribes as so many Russian oligarchs.

  53. Jacqueline Williams, you know very well that Singer was not the only author of that article in Sports Business Daily (to which you did not link, thus effacing the contribution of the other author). How about giving full credit where credit is due.....

  54. “We have some people who make significantly more money off of our competitors’ sites than they do working for DraftKings"

    Why work for peanuts when you can win 'significantly' more just playing daily fantasy? Because you can't win unless you are on the 'inside.' They should start calling everyone else DraftPawns, as that would be more accurate...

  55. There's a really simple way to fix this problem. Force fantasy sites to publish up to date ownership numbers for each player and limit entries per person to a reasonable number, like 100 (which sounds insanely high until you find out that the pros play thousands of entries a day). The fun will still be there, and the playing field evened enough to make it fair. As far as profitability goes, if DraftKings and FanDuel find the profit margins too thin, they can just get out of the business, because it's relativley simple for a traditional fantasy site (Yahoo etc. ) to just add on a daily contest as well and I'm SURE they'll be more than happy just collecting the 10% vig.

  56. So not only do these sharks have inside information, they also employ high-frequency trading tools to beat the amateurs. Sounds familiar?

  57. I play daily fantasy sports. I am no "shark" . I have been profitable and smart with daily fantasy. Bankroll management is key. Most of the controversy is surrounding these big tourneys for a million dollars. You can play all different types of games. Head to Head and 50/50 type games. Do some research, put a lineup in and have some fun. Be smart with money. There are plenty of free contests to participate in to gain some "skill" and knowledge. You can also see how other players play be seeing their line ups. I hope for some sort of regulation so there is fair play. I want daily fantasy to succedde and hope i see more articles that put this industry in a more positive light.

  58. This market is in its infancy and over time more and more smart college kids using models with tons of time will enter and some will make money and the win rate will rise to about 10 percent for the sharks.