New Fantasy Site Vows to be No. 1 in Two Years

Written by:
Thomas Somach
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New Fantasy Site Vows to be No. 1 in Two Years

WALNUT CREEK, Calif.--Fantasy sports today are where poker was 10 years ago. The scene is exploding with popularity. Huge amounts of money are being won. And new names are joining the game every week.

One of the newest fantasy sports websites to get into the game is called Major League Fantasy ( and is based in Walnut Creek, California, USA, just outside of San Francisco in the heart of Internet- and computer-crazy Silicon Valley. The site went online just over a month ago and is already jockeying for position in the ever-growing fantasy market in an effort to make a name for itself in the nascent industry.

Gambling 911 earlier this week caught up with Major League Fantasy chief executive officer Jesse Merl at the Major League Fantasy offices in Walnut Creek and asked him, among other things, how he plans to break through and become top dog in an exploding industry whose competitors are multiplying faster than rabbits. Here is a transcript of that interview:

Gambling 911: How does your fantasy operation work and how is it different from the many other fantasy leagues out there? What states and countries are you legal in and how do you stop players who are not in those locations from joining? And what is the age limit to join and how do you verify that? 

​Jesse Merl: Major League Fantasy is different in that we have integrated a fully functioning social network into our fantasy platform. Our social features are unique in some regards as they directly relate to game play, like being able to see your record against any other player, but others are standard to many household named social networks. Posting on walls, commenting on pics, etc. All adds to the overall user experience of playing fantasy sports with your friends which in the end is what fantasy sports is truly about. In response to the other questions, we have the top gaming attorneys in the country and are strongest about who is allowed to play on our site in terms of location and age.

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G9: How much does it cost to join and what do you get for your money?

JM: It is free to join

G9: Why is your operation legal and why isn't it considered gambling? Is there really any difference between guessing which team will have a good day and win a game, which is gambling, and guessing which players will have good days, which is legal fantasy play?

​JM: It's a game of skill which is why it isn't gambling. Referring to people "guessing" who will do well and who will not is not an accurate portrayal of the fantasy sports drafting process. Players research and make educated decisions regarding who is likely to perform well based on many different categories chosen to mold their decision.

G9: How did you get into the fantasy sports business? Can you tell us about your personal background?

JM: I am an entrepreneur and a sports fan. This is my first venture in the fantasy sports business, but I have been an avid player for over a decade and I have built two other companies prior to this and both were successful for my investors, partners, myself and my employees.

G9: How are you preparing to compete against the commercially successful DraftKings and FanDuel?  Both companies have attracted significant investment monies recently, so are you preparing to do the same?

​JM: I am definitely planning to compete against both of them. We plan on being the Number One daily fantasy site within two years. I will not discuss specific strategy and tactics we will use, but we will definitely be raising more funding than we have thus far.

G9: What has been the growth rate of your business?  What is the driving force behind that growth?  Has the media coverage fantasy is getting this season translated into a boost for your own business? And how many paying customers do you have right now?

​JM: We launched five weeks ago. We've shown significant growth every week and haven't unleashed our heavy marketing yet. 

G9: What is an average fantasy player worth?  How much will he or she spend on daily fantasy games in a given year?  How does this compare with season-long contests?

JM: Our users track to play 40% more than the average daily fantasy player. Comparing daily players' value to traditional players' values is essentially impossible because the business models of the providers of the two types of games is fundamentally different and the way revenue is derived wholly different as well.

G9: Can you compete with the likes of ESPN and Yahoo should they enter daily fantasy sports, as is rumored?

JM: Absolutely.

G9: Would it make sense for a fantasy company like yours to team up with an online sportsbook partner, such as or out of Costa Rica or one of the European books such as Paddy Power of Ireland or William Hill of the U.K.?  Such a partnership would give you a ready-made customer base of sports-betting fanatics, so have any such companies approached you or vice-versa?

JM: I cannot answer that question.

G9: Where are you based and why have you chosen that location? And are you considering branching out into other locations?

JM: Silicon Valley. If we branched out anywhere, we would go to New York and Boston.

G9: Do you have many female players? What percentage of your customer base is female? Are there any significant differences in the way female customers play fantasy as compared to male players, as far as strategy, tactics and expectations are concerned?

JM: Due to the nature of our product, we have high engagement with our female users. They love the social side of it.

G9: Where do you expect fantasy in general and your company in particular to be a year from now? Do you expect legal sports wagering to become more widespread in the U.S. in the coming years? If you do, how would that affect fantasy?

​JM: I wouldn't speculate about sports wagering, as I do not see it as similar to the games we provide, so I don't think I am any more qualified than anyone else to have any more than a guess to offer. If it were to become accepted, I do not think it would affect fantasy one way or the other. Betting is something you do alone. Fantasy is something you do with your friends.

G9: Is there anything else you'd like to add that you haven't been asked about?​

​JM: By the end of 2016, Major League Fantasy will be the de facto home for daily fantasy sports. If you are looking to get recognition as a high-caliber player, you'll need to come prove it at You can win money at any of the million other daily fantasy sites. If you want respect, you'll need to come take it at

By Tom Somach Staff Writer

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