One of Massachusetts’ neighbors just banned daily fantasy sports games – specifically the ones that mirror sports betting.
New York banned prop-style DFS games, made popular at apps such as PrizePicks, Underdog Fantasy and Sleeper. Games such as these give over/under totals for individual player stats.
As of now, these games are legal in Massachusetts. But could that change?
New York bans daily fantasy sports that mirror sports betting
Just like sports betting, daily fantasy sports are legal on a state-by-state basis.
The Massachusetts online gambling landscape allows for daily fantasy sports.
In 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation temporarily allowing daily fantasy sports in Massachusetts. The legislature permanently renewed the legislation in 2018, allowing anyone 21 and up to participate in the activity.
But New York officials passed Rule 5602.1(a)(4). That rule states that “(fantasy) contests shall not be based on proposition betting or contents that have the effect of mimicking proposition betting.”
Once this rule is enacted, New York will join Ohio and Maryland as states that banned pick ‘em daily fantasy contests.
A spokesperson from Underdog said in a statement that the organization will “continue to work with the gaming commission to ensure we operate under the finalized fantasy sports rules.”
How are these games different from DFS?
Traditional daily fantasy sports games are similar to that of fantasy sports. Users draft or select real players, build a roster and compete against other players.
For example, you join a fantasy football league with your friends. You draft your roster and then compete for the entire year with that team. Daily fantasy sports is the same, but the key here is “daily.” It’s not a season-long grind, but one where users can create a new roster each week (or daily, depending on the sport).
In the case of daily fantasy sports, you’re competing either against your friends or other players across the globe.
The argument against these games being regulated by gaming bodies is that they are considered skill-based. Users are relying on their sports knowledge when making these player picks.
Where the operators that come into question differ is who players compete against. In the case of PrizePicks, for instance, you’re competing against the house – just as you would with traditional sports betting.
Sticking with that PrizePicks example, a user will choose different athletes and select either the over or under for that statistical category for a chance to win.
And that’s where the lines between daily fantasy sports and sports betting blur.
Take FanDuel Massachusetts, for instance, which is famous for its same-game parlays and intuitive prop bets. Users can pick an over/under for a specific player stat line and even combine different stat lines across different sports in one parlay with a chance for a big payout. That’s the same with the sites under question.
What are Massachusetts’ rules on DFS?
Daily fantasy sports are legal in Massachusetts. They have been since 2016.
The big names in Massachusetts are the same as others across the country: DraftKings and FanDuel. Other legal operators include Jock MKT, Boom Fantasy and Yahoo Fantasy.
Here’s a look at common types of daily fantasy sports that are legal within the state:
- Designated number of players
- In-game showdowns
- Beat the score
- Best ball
Massachusetts investigated this issue over the summer
Several states have thought about the legality of this form of daily fantasy sports. States include Florida, Maine, Michigan, Wyoming… and Massachusetts.
In August, Massachusetts Gaming Commission Interim Executive Director and General Counsel Todd Grossman said that the MGC was looking for an overlap – just like New York’s outlawed.
“There are certain activities offered by daily fantasy sports operators that may be considered sports wagering activity that’s been addressed in a number of jurisdictions,” he said at the time.
You cannot bet on team props at these daily fantasy sports sites, as you stick with individual players. That’s one difference between a traditional sportsbook and a daily fantasy site — you can’t bet on a team total or a team to cover the spread.
But like Grossman said, some aspects of sports betting look identical to that of these daily fantasy sites, like selecting a player’s over/under for yardage or points in a game.
Massachusetts has not banned these type sof games since August, when Grossman spoke on the issue.
Smaller DFS operators blame FanDuel, DraftKings for the recent pushback
Just as they’re favorites for daily fantasy sports in Massachusetts, FanDuel Massachusetts and DraftKings Massachusetts reign supreme for sports betting in the state, too.
The Coalition for Fantasy Sports represents the sites in question, and over the summer, it blamed the pushback on the two major players.
“It’s unfortunate DraftKings and Fanduel, the same companies that championed fantasy sports as skill-based for years, have changed their tune at the first sign of competition,” the coalition’s statement said. “It’s a thinly veiled attempt to create a false narrative and position themselves as the only games in town.”
Underdog, one of the sites represented by the Coalition for Fantasy Sports, said the same thing in an open letter to its community, too. The letter said that “FanDuel and DraftKings are afraid of competition” and “they’re scared that we will challenge their market positions.”
“We’re already bigger than they are in fantasy,” Underdog’s letter reads. “Frankly, they should be scared.”
Could Massachusetts ban these games?
New York took a stand last week, and there could be a chance Massachusetts eventually does the same.
Massachusetts is notoriously strict with its regulations, and that’s not a bad thing by any means. The state is seen by many as an industry leader regarding responsible gaming and the specific language tied to promotions. And this is a similar issue.
Technically, these daily fantasy sports “prop bets” are not sports betting. They fall under the fantasy sports umbrella, but they mirror what sort of wagers you can place on any operator like a FanDuel or DraftKings.
That’s a gray area, and gray areas don’t fly in Massachusetts. We’ve seen operators change their promotional language, specifically on risk-free betting and free bets. Massachusetts was at the forefront for those discussions.
Again, it’s worth noting that Massachusetts officials already said they were taking a look at daily fantasy sports that mimic sports betting. It would make sense that if they found anything egregious at the time, they would have outlawed the operations.
Time will tell. But New York’s recent move could be a push that leads Massachusetts to do the same.