Daily fantasy sports betting returns to Delaware

DOVER — Delawareans will once again be able to bet money on daily fantasy sports starting Friday.

On that day, House Bill 249, which legalizes betting on fantasy sports, goes into effect. FanDuel and DraftKings, the two titans of daily fantasy sports, will re-enter the market Friday, just in time for the Sept. 7 kickoff of the NFL season.

“I think we’re super excited,” FanDuel Chief Financial Officer Andy Giancamilli said. “Glad that we were able to work with the representatives in Delaware to find something that works with everybody and we’re able to bring fantasy sports to our players.”

Daily fantasy is distinct from traditional sports betting, which involves wagering money on what teams will win, and from fantasy sports. While fantasy sports allow individuals to select individual players for their teams, hypothesizing who they think will have the best performances that season, daily fantasy adds a twist to that by letting customers choose a new team every day.

Participants in daily fantasy also typically compete against far more people and generally play for money, whereas regular fantasy sports often have nothing but bragging rights on the line.

A participant pays a small entry fee and is tasked with selecting a team of players. Each player is assigned a certain value, however, and there’s a cap, preventing competitors from simply picking the best athletes game after game.

An individual taking part in a game of daily fantasy for the first week of the NFL season might select stars like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, while also picking up a little-known player, such as Ravens running back Danny Woodhead, in hopes of a breakout performance and thus more points for the competitor’s team.

The top finishers then win cash, with the very best potentially collecting a six-figure check.

DraftKings is offering a $1 billion contest in week 1 of the NFL season, where the “lineup that scores the most DraftKings fantasy points that could possibly be scored within the salary cap and position requirements” wins its owner $1 billion (although it’s likely no one will hit that mark).

In a statement, a DraftKings spokesman said the company is “thrilled to be returning to Delaware.”

“It would certainly be fitting if a DraftKings player from the First State scored another history-making first and become fantasy sports’ first ever billionaire,” James Chisholm said.

Some Delawareans have been eagerly awaiting the return of fantasy sports betting for more than a year.

In July 2016, Attorney General Matt Denn announced fantasy sports betting — which erupted in popularity in fall 2015 as DraftKings and FanDuel pumped money into advertising during NFL games — was illegal under Delaware law, which allows gambling only if it is “under state control.”

Daily fantasy relies on chance rather than skill, the Department of Justice argued, noting unforeseen circumstances like weather and injuries can and do affect players’ performances.

But under the new law passed by legislators in June, fantasy sports betting is no longer considered luck-based and thus is exempt from the statutes covering gambling.

House Bill 249 states, “Interactive fantasy sports are not games of chance because they consist of fantasy sports games or contests in which the fantasy sports teams are selected based upon the skill and knowledge of the participants and not based on the current membership of an actual team that is a member of an amateur or professional sports organization.”

The measure requires users to be at least 18 years of age and prevents employees or family members of employees of providers from participating in contests. It also imposes a 15.5 percent tax on fantasy sports operators and charges an annual license fee of $50,000.

Mr. Giancamilli said he expects thousands of Delawareans will play daily fantasy through FanDuel. According to the company, Delawareans sent “thousands” of letters to state lawmakers asking them to approve fantasy sports betting.

“I think this is an industry that has a very passionate base of customers,” Mr. Giancamilli said.

According to FanDuel, 14 states have legalized fantasy sports betting.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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