In the continued debate on whether the daily fantasy sports industry would benefit from some form of regulation the two major players in DFS (FanDuel and DraftKings) both had issues this week showing why regulation may be beneficial for DFS players.
***Disclaimer: I have no direct affiliation with either FanDuel or DraftKings so I can say what I think and will do so below. Although this has hurt my own bottom line in the past certain things need to be said that are going to or are currently negatively affecting DFS players. I have not shied away from this in the past and will continue to say what needs to be said in the future. If you would like to chime in with your thoughts please use our comments section below.***
We will start with the issue that happened at DraftKings last weekend. According to a Rotogrinders forum thread, RG member colinwdrew pointed out that an article was posted on the DraftKings playbook at 2:30 PM which showed player percentage owned for the DraftKings Millionaire Maker for week 3 NFL. This wouldn’t be a big deal on FanDuel or sites that are not late swap, but for DraftKings when that information is (supposedly) locked for everyone in case late swaps do occur. It is extremely unsettling and worrisome that not only can a mistake like this happen but that some people even have access to this information in the first place. If this sort of information is stored in advance like this who is to say that the data isn’t available to someone 5 minutes before kickoff of games or 10 minutes before the kickoff or even an hour before the initial kickoff. My point is if the data can be accessed in advance then it is possible it could be accessed at other points in advance even before the tournament is live. In the Rotogrinders thread we were given an explanation from Ethan himself.
If we take his response at face value we can safely assume Ethan was the only employee with access to this information. Should we rest easy knowing that he cannot play on DraftKings site? Hardly, especially if you played at FanDuel last weekend. Because Ethan does play DFS at FanDuel and actually had a pretty good week. In fact he took 2nd place in the biggest GPP on FanDuel for $350,000. That is a life changing score. I am not questioning Ethans skill at DFS, but if we argue that DFS is a game of skill then that skill really is about gathering the most relevant and useful data and information and using that to construct our lineups. If Ethan is the only one with access to this data at DraftKings how valuable is it for him to be able to use it on a site like FanDuel? It is extremely valuable if he has the information before lineups lock on FanDuel. In fact it could be the most valuable data available which is why it is kept so under wraps and why this is such a big deal. The edge that can be created by having access to this data is 2nd to none. No other data comes close to being as valuable as having a complete understanding of exactly what way the DFS crowd is leaning in any given week. That is why our FanDuel Thursday ownership piece is so popular. It is because it gives a small glimpse into the key ownership levels for that week.
I am not saying outright that Ethan used this data to build his FanDuel lineup. Early reports from others indicate that he was sent the file after roster lock of lineups on FanDuel. But with no transparency for the industry in place, similar situations like this could easily occur. And with no regulatory board or anything in place to police this sort of activity, we as players are left in the dark.
Now before it can be argued that DraftKings data isn’t relevant to FanDuel data I took a look at the team that Ethan constructed to finish 2nd and put in the FanDuel ownership and then the DraftKings milly maker ownership and the percentages are incredibly close.
|Player||FanDuel %||DraftKings %|
Incredibly similar numbers. Now even before this situation was brought to light that DraftKings employees had access to pre locked percentage owned for players, it could be argued that employees of one site who participate in DFS on another site have valuable data and information available to them that the general public does not have. Even having an understanding of the pricing algorithm implored by one site would be beneficial when playing at another. Now is it possible to simply state that all DFS Site employees should not be able to participate in DFS contests at other sites with the general public? No, probably not, but this is again where a regulator would be beneficial to the general DFS Player. Right now we are playing in the wild west for DFS. Anything goes and nothing is in place to protect players. The DFS sites already are having issues supposedly policing themselves. Can we continue to trust that they are doing everything in their power to protect us players? That question is scary to answer and is one of the reasons I am in favor of seeing some kind of regulation or governing body policing the activities of DFS sites. The fact of the matter is any DFS employee with the capabilities to access this type of data at any time really shouldn’t be playing on any DFS site. We have millions of dollars changing hands on a weekly basis and anytime that kind of money can be won, people will do anything they can to get their hands on it.
Thank you to everyone. So grateful for all the ways #dfs and the amazing people within it have changed my life.
— Ethan Haskell (@EthanHaskellDFS) September 29, 2015
****Editors Note: A previous version of this story sited the rotogrinders thread as being locked. That is not the case. If you would like to leave comments or discussions in that thread as well please feel free to do so. I apologize for any confusion this created.****
Yesterday, FanDuel had a $100 entry fee 6K guaranteed tournament advertised as a single entry event start. Shortly after roster lock some DFS players who entered this tournament noticed that others somehow had multiple entries into this tournament.
— Prince Of Darkness (@TheEndIsNir) October 2, 2015
This has happened on a much smaller scale in the past but has not drawn the publicity that this instance has. This is mainly due to the players that were involved and the initial discovery on twitter. The response FanDuel has given on twitter is below.
@IamLegendDFS This was titled wrong. Apologies. All users in the contest have been emailed and given the option to join a free $100 contest.
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) October 2, 2015
I also reached out to FanDuel to get some further information from them. Below is their response.
Although titled as a Single Entry contest FanDuel is stating that this was incorrectly labeled which is why users who attempted to were able to add additional entries into this contest. Frustrating for users? Yes, but it has happened before but hopefully will not continue to happen in the future. The response from FanDuel to simply throw free tickets at the players affected is the real issue. At some point DFS players need reassurances that issues will not continue to happen. I maybe in the minority and I maybe delusional but hopefully some form of regulation would actually benefit players in this way. Standards would need to be met in order to offer DFS contests and penalties would be enforced if issues like this happened. We would also have standards in place for how situations like this are handled.