By now, it’s likely you’re pretty familiar with the idea of daily fantasy sports. But in case you’re not, here’s the basic idea: you sign up at any of a number of websites, deposit money, and use that money to enter fantasy sports contests that last only for the duration of a single day or week’s worth of competition, rather than an entire season. There’s a ton of variety in the different competitions offered, the deposit amounts, and potential winnings. You might enter an NFL contest on Sunday for $2 and win $4, and you might enter an NBA contest the following Monday for $10 and strike out.
Daily fantasy sports have actually been around for a while now, though their popularity has really exploded in the past few years. But it’s in the last six months that the daily fantasy industry has really begun to look unstoppable. Despite growing concerns about whether or not the industry will ultimately be crippled by state governments declaring it a form of illegal sports betting, the leading sites (like FanDuel and DraftKings) continue to advertise relentlessly. A map compiled at Gambling.com shows that daily fantasy remains legal throughout most of the U.S., and even where it’s in question it is largely allowed while the legislative process unfolds.
Meanwhile, more serious daily fantasy options are still entering the industry. Just this past summer before the beginning of the 2015 NFL season, an article at WSJ.com described how Yahoo was “betting on” fantasy sports by incorporating real money gaming. Long recognized as a popular platform for ordinary fantasy sports, Yahoo has since adopted a daily fantasy format very similar to those made popular by FanDuel and DraftKings. Such a major player getting into the game rather late would seem to indicate that those behind daily fantasy sites aren’t particularly worried about potential legal battles regarding sports betting.
All of this has been pretty mainstream in the news of late. But what you may not know yet is that the idea of daily, real money contests online is not exclusive to sports. Indeed, there are some similar sites that actually apply the same basic concept to gaming, allowing competitive online gamers to find opponents and enter contests with actual money on the line. It works differently than daily fantasy sports because competitors are actually playing out the games rather than simply picking lineups of athletes and hoping they perform well. So in a sense, players engaging in daily real-money gaming have more control over how they do (though the competition can be steep).
The best known site at this point for daily real money gaming is probably GamerSaloon, which was actually launched all the way back in 2006. Players can design their own contests and tournaments with personalized restrictions to balance the playing field as much as possible. An interesting alternative that emerged just in the past few months is GamerDuel, which appears to be a video game equivalent of daily fantasy sports sites. The site’s been fun to follow in its early days, and the creators’ blog at Medium.com offers regular updates as to the status of the company and the industry in general. It’s perhaps not as established as GamerSaloon, but it’s a very sharp platform with a great deal of potential.
Best of all in this whole conversation is that these real money gaming sites are completely immune to the legal issues threatening to cripple the daily fantasy sports industry that on the surface appears to be so similar. The whole debate over sports betting in the United States essentially comes down to one question: is a contest based on a betting participant’s skill, or on pure chance? Daily fantasy sites are trying to argue that there’s skill in putting together a strategic lineup in an attempt to outperform the lineup of another user, whereas state legislatures are arguing that this is no different than simply betting on a team to win a game with no control over the outcome. By contrast, in competitive gaming, every participant has direct control over the action. It’s a contest, not a bet.
For that reason, the real money gaming industry appears to be here to stay. And it might just be a new corner of the gaming industry you never even realized you wanted to explore.