Greed is the emotion. Power is the force. Money is the desire.
What drives us? What moves a random individual to act upon something that previously went unnoticed?
Money. Money always forces action.
Daily fantasy sports, as an industry, has existed for years. It wasn’t a secret. It isn’t new. It just hadn’t reached a mass audience. Yet.
Within the last six months, you couldn’t turn on a sports-related media outlet and not see an advertisement for one of the two most-recognized daily fantasy sports websites — DraftKings and FanDuel. To the point that bordered on nausea — for some, it reached it — the over-saturation of advertising was unavoidable. Not only were these sites alive and well, but they were thriving.
Enter average fan. Enter media. Enter government.
Both the questions and answers are so obvious that it is barely worth the effort to ask and respond. “Why is this happening now?” “Because money is on the line.”
When a company has yet to transcend its market, it is invisible. Money is transferred all the time from one human being to another. On Wall Street. On the Internet. On a playground. But trading pieces of paper for currency was nothing. Until it was something. A juice box can be bartered for chocolate milk. Until a value is attached to it.
Sports fans can select players with the expectation of certain performances and compete against one another. Until there is money on the line.
More accurately, until there is enough money to catch people’s attention on the line.
In fairness to the reality, daily fantasy sports is a relative of gambling, however, the presence of skill is undeniable. As in all debates of ‘skill versus luck,’ if a specific contest was purely lucky, how is it that some find success repeatable? Drawing lottery numbers at random is, by definition, randomized. Selecting players, by choice, with an expected outcome is a combination of luck, skill, and experience, among others.
When something is misunderstood, it is often misclassified. Differences between gambling and daily fantasy sports exist, but the line of delineation is unclear to those without the proper knowledge — or really, effort — to make an informed decision. In essence, a lawyer may not be properly equipped to decide if a documentary is more media or art.
As the world of daily fantasy sports gained more exposure through increased marketing, those who were less informed, but still powerful, began to see an opportunity to act. It mattered not that the facts and research necessary to pass judgement were rushed and incomplete, as simply moving the meter was a priority. After all, a head coach who stands idly by is often criticized, even if intervention would have resulted in failure.
How is a political figure supposed to act when given the opportunity to make a change? If a person in power has a new avenue to explore, what else should he or she do besides try to monetize it?
The problem, therefore, is not that the government has decided to step in and enter the world of daily fantasy sports, but that it is doing so behind selfish motives while making uneducated decisions by acting irrationally. If there were a more transparent acknowledgment that these moves were a money-grab for those who cannot digest millions of dollars being moved around — not through — them, the pill would be easier to swallow. If there were proper research done behind such sweeping decrees, the understanding that simply casting something aside for fear of its implications is rarely in anyone’s best interest, and a better compromise may have been reached.
Power breeds power, and followers look to follow. Once the snowball tipped, it was inevitable that it would continue growing. As difficult as it is for politicians with no risk of actually being challenged to let a competitor find a new platform, it is even more unlikely that support would wane. Instead, the flicker of movement draws the moths, and a false sense of clout is created.
At this point, the war has begun. Sites like DraftKings and FanDuel will be forced into defending themselves, as losing participants from the state of New York, is crippling. Politicians — basing their stance on a faulty foundation — will not concede defeat. Those who will end up as the collateral damage are the ones that built this industry to what it is today — the players.
Daily fantasy sports is not driven by one person against a computer, a sportsbook, or a spinning wheel. It is a community of participants on equal footing set free to make their own individual decisions. Indeed, the government does have a right to protect its people from the dangers of addiction — and daily fantasy sports are nothing short of ‘addicting’ — but unilaterally bundling two related hobbies together and impacting an entire, established society in the process is not the proper way to utilize power. If all forms of mind-altering, influencing stimulants — alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc. — are not considered equal, why are the perceived elements of gambling?
The ignorance that has allowed such political maneuvers to succeed in the past is slowly being countered. We live in a different world where social media aids in shining light on the truth that has been covered. Now, more than ever, those affected by any change — good or bad — have a louder voice.
What the politicians have not factored into their rash decision is that the same reason why they are attempting to steal a piece of the pie — popularity — is the exact force that will cause resistance. The increased amount of money at stake caught the attention of those interested in making a move. The increased amount of people forced out of a hobby they have grown to love is the reason why the group will collectively fight back.
What’s worse for those attempting to flex their political muscles in the faces of those formerly confined to unheard complaints is that the growing fantasy sports world will be active far longer than any politician’s campaign. If anything, the exact demographic that will build the next generation of government — and influence the current politicians’ positions — is the one most targeted by the recent events against daily fantasy sports.
As usual, those making the decisions failed to think it through. Unfortunately for them, we won’t simply accept it without a fight.
After all, we have something at stake, too.