Daily Fantasy Gaming Discussed at Symposium

Panel at Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming discusses daily fantasy games.

While a panel of experts on daily fantasy gaming and its current legality differed on some details, they largely agreed this relatively new gaming form is here to stay and racing should work with it.

The experts offered their opinions during a discussion on daily fantasy sports at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program's Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming on Wednesday, Dec. 9 in Tucson, Ariz.

For those not up to speed on daily fantasy gaming, players select players from various sports, then based on the real-life outcomes of those players' performance that day or week, winning fantasy players are awarded and losing players lose their entry fee. Daily fantasy found legal room to operate after court decisions upheld season-long type fantasy games that have enjoyed longer-standing popularity. Also daily fantasy advocates believe they have protections under the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act.

Courts ruled that such season-long fantasy games are similar to bowling leagues which award a winning team a prize, based on skill, at the end of the season. Daily fantasy argues that it's doing the same thing and panel member John Ford echoed that argument.

"I think there's more skill in daily fantasy than season-long, actually," said Ford, co-founder of BAM Software and Services which has developed platforms for pari-mutuel wagering and real-money online competitive games (fantasy).

Under current rules daily fantasy has flourished, as any viewer of sporting events knows from the seemingly endless daily fantasy commercials that run during those games. Regulators and law enforcement also have taken notice, and while a few have called for a ban viewing the games as largely random and therefor gambling, most have called for regulation and licensing. The latter approach would allow states to gain a piece of the action through licensing and taxation.

For racing, Ford believes that daily fantasy players, who succeed through research of statistics, injury information, and the like, have a lot in common with horseplayers than say slot machine players. He said the industry should be working with such games as a way to bring over these players to race wagering.

"I believe horse racing can have a strong future and fantasy can be part of that," Ford said. "The fantasy player is doing the same thing as a horseplayer, examining data, making decisions, managing bankroll. He happens to be younger and is doing it on a different sport. It's a target rich area to bring in players to horse racing."

Jack McGrail, executive director of the Oregon Racing Commission, said with its experience in regulating pari-mutuel wagering and advance-deposit wagering operations, the ORC would be the logical regulator to oversee daily fantasy in that state. He noted that fantasy players are not receiving protections afforded by regulation to pari-mutuel players.

McGrail said if daily fantasy is a gaming form that is added at tracks and ADWs, it would be important to make sure the racing industry would get a cut of that new money, as it has following the addition of slot machine and casino-type wagering at tracks.

McGrail said he's not sure that fantasy players, or even sports bettors who also were discussed in the wide-ranging panel, would crossover to horse racing.

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, joining the panel via Skype, said that while racing does well with its big events, interest in most of its race days is dying out. He said some new customers could be brought in by offering sports wagering and fantasy wagering at tracks and ADWs. He said revenues from this expanded gaming could help fuel racing's "everyday" operations.

Kate C. Lowenhar-Fisher, a gaming attorney in Las Vegas, noted that tastes change in gambling from generation to generation and that laws in Nevada are crafted pretty well in terms of adjusting to those changes and embracing new games like daily fantasy. 

"The general view in Nevada is that what is good for gambling is good for Las Vegas," Lowenhar-Fisher said. 

Horse racing contests, especially those conducted online, also were discussed by the panel. Lowenhar-Fisher said the contests, many which operate in the same legal area as daily fantasy, may be the next gaming form to come under scrutiny. The Stronach Group tracks this month filed a federal lawsuit against online horse racing contest site DerbyWars.

McGrail said effort needs to be made to ensure that such contests are benefitting horse racing and that players are protected through regulation. Hunt again made his point that racing needs to adjust to changing times and see the opportunity presented by such contests.