Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

Holler: Daily fantasy gets investigated

A grand jury is expected to look into the world of daily fantasy, where employees have inside information and are allowed to play at other companies. Changes are already in the air.

I love fantasy football. The first year I got involved in it Dan Marino was holding sway and I made a point to get the “two Marks” to go with him. I dominated. I was hooked.

What makes fantasy football a national obsession is that anyone who thinks he or she knows football is the smartest person in the room. I was cool with fantasy football before it was cool.

Every fantasy football league has a fish – someone whose money is contributed for someone else to cash in. Some leagues are stocked ponds, replete with fish-a-plenty.

Some could argue that, in its current tsunami of popularity, fantasy football has become an addiction for many. There are people in multiple leagues – if you were counting on your fingers, you need both hands.

That’s dangerous.

And, for the current window of time, exploitation of that addiction is allowed and encouraged.

The websites DraftKings and FanDuel have made an atomic explosion in a loophole that currently hasn’t caught up with them yet. By their own admission, they’re bringing in $75 million a week.

A week!

Are you kidding?

By all accounts, that isn’t currently being regulated or enforced by the federal government.

Not yet.

When there are those kind of numbers being floated out, there’s a lot of noses that get opened. The government cares. So do those who look to make a fast buck at the expense of others.

The discovery that employees within the organizations are privy to the percentage of players that are being picked in the fantasy lotto is insider intel that can be the source of corruption.

Just as ESPN let the world know that a rube with a horseshoe in his pocket who consistently got incredible hold cards could win the World Series of Poker, the boom of business – at a low end and a very, very high end of unsavory types – was beyond what anyone governing the Internet could imagine.

Suddenly everyone was playing Texas Hold ’Em. People who knew the game cleaned up.

Like mushrooms in a moist environment, hold ’em gambling sprouted. Give us your credit card and have at it.

It didn’t take long for government officials to catch onto the fact that the game is rigged.

Guess what, sports fans? The fix could be in.

It got exposed this week, but it has been there all along.

All casinos want is addicts with cash. A thousand guys with a thousand bucks count as much a one guy with a million. They know they’re going to win and, if you have experts on the payroll, your odds spike in the house’s favor.

By industry estimates, DraftKings and FanDuel are $2.5 billion companies. In Week 1 of the NFL season alone, the two companies spent $32 million in advertising.

There’s a reason the NFL has shied away from gambling. It brings with it an illegal element that is looking to make a fast buck off of dupes. The reason the NFL has an injury report is because gamblers were getting inside information about player injuries that the general public wasn’t aware of. For a long time, the NFL has distanced itself from gambling because they don’t want the scenario where players or coaches could be tainted by the lure of big money.

Gambling on games is technically illegal unless you are in a state where gaming is allowed. Yet, for the time being, gambling on individual players is not only allowed, it’s embraced by the NFL and many of its network sponsors. It likely will only be a matter of time before these sites are either banned or harshly restricted, much like online poker sites that were once the rage had their water cut off.

You won’t find me at either DraftKings or FanDuel. This week, we found out that there could be insider trading going on, hurting the odds against the everyday Joe looking to make big money. Employees of one company, with access to information the general public doesn’t have, were allowed to play in the games at the other company, with one of them winning $350,000 in one week.

For the moment, both companies are printing money. But don’t expect it to last forever. Something doesn’t smell right about the fast-money promotions that are at the heart of both companies. Ninety-nine-whatever-percent of people don’t win the lottery and that might be more of a level playing field. Any time there is money as huge as the numbers being generated by these daily fantasy sites, there will be people looking to bend the odds in their favor. For now it’s the Wild West. There is very little in the way of regulation and, when billions of dollars are on the line, self-policing isn’t an option.

There will be people who use skill or luck to cash in on picking fantasy teams, but, for the most part, people will be sweetening the pot with their money so people with inside information can win it. Enjoy it while it’s out there.


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