The evolution of fantasy sports is an interesting topic. First and foremost because its quick and steady growth is nothing short of a phenomenon. However impressive, the popularity of fantasy sports is easy to explain. Sports fans naturally engage in sports. With their friends, with their families, and as social media emerged through the 90s, fantasy sports thrived.

The business

Who benefits from fantasy sports evolution you wonder? Is it the players for their fun and winnings? Is it the leagues, the NFL, the NBA. And how do they benefit from it? Or is it maybe the fantasy sports sites, specifically DraftKings and FanDuel which have the largest market share in the business. The answer to who benefits from fantasy sports: a bit of everything.

Fantasy sports legal

Ever since the supreme court deemed fantasy sports, not as gambling, but rather a game of skill, the business has thrived. The stigma was no longer and leagues like the NFL and NBA started collaborating with fantasy sports sites. It has been an interesting process to watch. There are a few things that make fantasy sports a bit tricky, especially in terms of approaching it as something that is not gambling. The prizes are generous, especially the contests that require a larger buy-in than usual.

graph showing fantasy sports growth
Fantasy sports growth graph

Who takes home the prize?

Statistically, it’s always the top 2-4% of fantasy players that takes home the prizes. That makes the majority of the players pretty disadvantaged. Perhaps they overestimate their skills or they don’t have a realistic view of their chance of winning. When you look at it from that perspective, you could argue that fantasy sports do have an element of gambling. However, when you look into the nature of most contests with a low entry fee, you’d say it can’t do much harm.

Conflict of interest

There are some other fronts where caution is needed. Wherever a business grows as exponential as fantasy sports, interests easily get distorted. We saw this happening in an intriguing case a few years ago. A referee was found guilty of deciding the match in a way to benefit his fantasy team. That almost sounds like a story of a parallel universe, but it really happened! This is where leagues and laws realized it was time to step up and clarify some things. As a consequence, players and other people directly involved in the NFL, NBA or other leagues are not allowed to play in any fantasy sports league. Which is fair. The quicker you draw a line like that, the better a job you do at preventing conflicted interests to find a way of expressing itself.

Social media

Another way that fantasy sports have grown so effortlessly is the natural engagement through social media. Fantasy players are very keen on sharing news on their social channels. That could be about match outcomes, their performance in the league, predictions, scores and player profiles. Fantasy sites played utilized that fact very smartly and naturally. That way, a lot of the promoting work is doing itself.

Benefits for the fantasy players

It’s not just the big boys, the sports leagues and fantasy sites, that have been able to profit from fantasy sports evolution. When the phenomenon first started out, there were only seasonal leagues to take part in. It’s the nostalgia of the first generation of fantasy players, setting up a league with family and friends and commit it to it for the entire season. Several years later, daily fantasy sports became a thing.

playing fantasy sports on your phone
Fantasy sports roster

Seizing the opportunity: DFS

The players that had been in a fantasy football league for several seasons, could immediately tap into this new opportunity. They already had the skills and experience at hand to make something out of it. The best performing fantasy players in any league are usually the ones who have been around since the early days. Their passion for the game just never stopped. Now, many of them make a really nice amount of money playing fantasy sports. Some even made it a full-time job. So yes, this is indeed a market that offers a lot of opportunity for a lot of different players. Whether you’re a business, a player, owner of a league (for real) or simply someone who enjoys the excitement their dose of daily fantasy sports.