As fall descends upon us with kids going back to school, we realize just how short our lives are and that time is not measured in hours and days, but seasons and years. The salve many Americans choose to slather onto that morbid reality is a wholly inappropriate devotion to modern gladiators of human athleticism crashing together for our amusement… and betting wildly on it.
The football season has started again and along with it Fantasy Football, the gaming industry that has exploded in the last few years with the appearance of the online companies DraftKings.com and FanDuel.com. Like wealthy patrons of gladiators in Ancient Rome, they quickly aligned the teams themselves, their revenues jumping to the hundreds of millions in 2015. Investors flocked to the breakaway success, to where the companies ad budgets allowed them to show one commercial for every four that aired during NFL broadcasts. However, the winning streak of this great empire seems to be wavering.
Amidst a slew of legal battles as to the “gaming” nature of Fantasy Football that have been proposed because of their success, FanDuel and DraftKings are having to defend themselves from being classified as gambling. If unsuccessful, the companies would be severely reduced in their function and scope as their are harsh laws across most states limiting where and how gambling can be accessed. The companies’ defense is that they call it a “game of skill”, and everyone within the companies and among many of their fan base take a hard line at that definition.
Last week their grit has paid off. After being hit with an injunction by the Attorney General of New York, a court ruled in their favor to allow them to continue operating in the state for one year. This is a good step in the direction of continued existence, as ten states have now pushed to not allow the two companies to operate within their borders. If history repeats, DraftKings and FanDuel will fight to exist as long as the money continues to flow from customers and venture capitalists alike, and are trending this year to exceed a combined $1 billion in revenue.
One still has to wonder: even if these battles are won, when will the fall come? Who will be fiddling as the empire burns?