Star Fantasy Reacts to HBO’s ‘Real Sports’ Piece About Daily Fantasy Sports

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Star Fantasy Reacts to HBO’s ‘Real Sports’ Piece About Daily Fantasy Sports

If you’re like us, you tuned in to watch Carl Quintanella’s portrayal of the daily fantasy sports industry on Tuesday’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.  According to the FSTA, 41 million people played fantasy sports last year in the USA alone. It should come as no surprise that our burgeoning industry is capturing the curiosity of the media.

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The piece focused on Cory Albertson, a successful fantasy sports players that is skilled enough to compete in these daily fantasy contests for a living. To us, Cory came off as an excellent ambassador for the dedicated fantasy sports community, using statistical analysis to make informed decisions when crafting daily lineups. The program’s secondary focus, though, was the perceived lack of compliance and basic consumer protections that permeate an industry estimated to be worth well over $1bn today.

Here at Star Fantasy Leagues we have a strong focus on legal compliance and self-regulation based on gaming industry best practices, and have been pioneering this effort by operating to the highest standards of the law while utilizing best-in-class compliance technology. In 2006, the federal government passed a law called the UIGEA that classified fantasy sports as skill gaming. We have designed our games of skill to remain in compliance with the UIGEA. What some may not know, however, is that this law is not the end-all-be-all for fantasy sports operators. Each individual state has different laws that surround real money gaming, and some state statutes classify real money fantasy sports differently than others. As such, Star Fantasy Leagues does not operate in jurisdictions where real money fantasy sports contests may potentially be perceived to fall under the classification of illegal gambling. Whether we agree with the law or not is irrelevant. Each individual state has the right to determine gaming activity within its own borders. We’re focused on engaging policymakers within the states that real money fantasy sports may currently be prohibited in order to educate them about our industry so that they may properly classify certain fantasy sports contests as games of skill. In the meantime, we operate with effective controls in place to prohibit unauthorized gaming within state borders that we have decided not to accept traffic from.

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Gumbel’s program discussed that it appears many daily fantasy sites do very little in way of “know-your-customer” in order to prevent players under the age of 18 from playing in real money contests, though most claim to prohibit that, and that many of these sites also appear to do very little to prevent players from within the borders of a state that may not allow real money fantasy sports from connecting and joining contests. Star Fantasy Leagues is not one of those sites.

We mention this because we are here to serve sports fans with an incredible second screen experience while they’re watching the teams and players they love. Playing daily fantasy sports (and traditional season long fantasy sports) is a hobby enjoyed by millions, and can be an incredibly lucrative one for individuals who possess more sports knowledge than others they compete against. Some soon forget, though, that the game isn’t just about the money, it’s about the entertainment and camaraderie among friends. Abilities aside, since our customers at all skill levels – recreational player to highly skilled sharp – trust us with their cash to compete in our games of skill for real money, it is our duty of care to ensure that we are operating to the highest standards of the law. Not just on a federal level, but on a state level. This is why age, identity, and geo-location checks are performed on all customers that play at Star Fantasy Leagues at the point of initial registration, and geo-location checks are performed on each session login to ensure the customer is connecting from an accepted jurisdiction. Our signup form has a few more fields in it than most other websites, and we’re comfortable with that. Had we been engaged for comment, it would have been our pleasure to walk Gumbel and crew through how effective self-regulation can be done.  We’re not just saying it’s important to us; the actions we’ve taken to put these processes in place prove this is important to us. We continue to integrate cutting edge, non-intrusive technologies so we may stay ahead of the curve with regard to compliance and regulation as protecting and serving our customers without compromising the user experience is our highest priority. Well, that and providing fantasy sports software that’s fun, easy to use, and engaging.

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When law professor and gambling expert John Kindt on Gumbel’s camera and claimed there was no way to verify a customer’s age, we groaned. We give Kindt no credibility, mostly because the technology to reliably verify a customer’s age exists. For a gambling law expert, Kindt appears to be uninformed. Making a statement that this technology doesn’t exist is ludicrous, and in our point of view was irresponsible journalism to feature someone like that on such a widely viewed program. Kindt sounded a lot like former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who made some easily disprovable statements like this at the 2014 GiGSE conference.  

A conversation about compliance and self-regulation is a conversation that most operators today would prefer to deflect, mostly because putting these processes in place can be costly and time consuming to both integrate and maintain. Having a slightly more stringent sign-up process can decrease the chances of having a customer register on your website, especially if that signup process is the exception and not the norm. Given the level of competition in what has become a red-hot market, doing anything to stem the flow of new registrations may not be high on an operator’s priority list.

That said, given the public perception of real money gaming, the legal landscape of gaming in the USA, and the lessons we can learn from gaming operators in other sectors before us, we’d argue that, at all times, it’s equally important to operate to the highest standards possible as it is to introduce the general public to these awesome new games. Federal law allows us to operate legally, and now as operators it is our responsibility to take care of the community of players who made their voices heard to influence this legislation. Preventing hot button issues like underage gaming, money-laundering, and unfair play can all be accomplished via existing and ever-evolving technology. We have invested time and money to ensure that a strong compliance structure is in place at Star Fantasy Leagues before jumping into the arms race for market share, not the other way around. If every operator strived to maintain these high standards from day one, perhaps media outlets reporting on our exploding industry may have better things to focus on than children playing on fantasy sports sites with their parent’s credit card. We’re glad to claim that we are effectively self-regulating to protect our customers, are active participants in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, and respect the laws that have been put in place, all the while providing one of the best fantasy sports experiences, the safest consumer environment, and fairest fantasy sports contests on the web.

Give us a call, Real Sports. We’d like to see a piece about the evolution of fantasy sports and the ingenuity of some of the groups behind that. Until then, we’ll be over in our Rochester, NY headquarters continuing to innovate.

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