When you hear information that 42 million people aged 12 or over in the US and Canada played fantasy sports in 2014, you know that it is big. And even though the East Meadow Strat-o-Matic Baseball League, founded in 1972, started its 43rd consecutive year of play in May 2014, and is believed to be the oldest continuously played fantasy sports league in the world, large interest in fantasy sports began with Internet expansion, and was ignited with illegality of sports betting and online wagering in most jurisdictions of North America.
Players around the world chose from a variety of real-life athletes, and assemble fantasy teams to compete with other players in fantasy leagues or games, based on statistical performance of these athletes. The statistical performance is then converted into points, and awarded to players that are ranked accordingly.
Fantasy sports are predominantly played in the US and Canada. The reason being: illegality of sports betting and online wagering in most jurisdictions. Apart from major league sports websites and content providers like CBS, Yahoo! or ESPN, the list of fantasy sports operators has seen continued growth. There are 13 major companies in North America that offer fantasy sports. Two US-based operators; FanDuel and DraftKings seem to have made a running start in the race to corner the market, as they make up nearly 90% of the fantasy sports market.
The market leader is FanDuel. Even though the company is privately held, they recently released revenue figures that are shown in the graph below. Revenues are calculated as entry fees minus prizes paid out to players. Entry fees are paid by each player for each contest and can range from US$ 1 to US$ 1,000.
Boston-based DraftKings do not report revenue figures regularly, since it is a privately held company, but recent media reports suggest that the company made US$ 45m in entry fees in 2013 and US$ 304m in 2014, increase of almost seven times in one year. The company made revenues of US$ 4m in 2013 and US$ 30m in 2014.
The third most popular site is DraftDay. The company that operates the site is New York-based MGT Capital Investments Inc. MGT also owns a majority stake (63%) in FanThrowDown, a smaller fantasy sport site. MGT’s gaming revenue also soared in the last two quarters. Q1 2014 revenues were US$ 42k, while Q2 revenues grew to US$ 276k, a six-fold increase. In the last reported quarter MGT’s gaming revenues recorded another increase to US$ 296k.
Legislation measures aimed at classifying fantasy sports games as games of skill have been introduced in the State of Washington, while separate bills seek to allow Iowans to collect their winnings. Recently Monmouth Park Racetrack in New Jersey announced its intention to start offering on-site fantasy football.
Besides these firms, there are several aforementioned media companies that are developing their fantasy sports offerings.
But North American fantasy sports sites have signed numerous sponsorship deals with major leagues and sports clubs in the past year. FanDuel partnered with NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers last month, and in November 2014 the company signed an agreement to become the fantasy partner of NBA, followed by the launch of the first official one-day fantasy basketball game.
When it comes to demographics, in the report entitled “Global Fantasy Sports Market 2015-2019”, researchers discovered that the average fantasy sports player is 34, predominantly male (80%), not married (51.5%) and has a college degree or more (78.1%). The interesting thing to notice is that the average player spends 8.67 hours weekly playing fantasy sports, and 46.9% of players pay league fees. They are involved in fantasy sports for 9.51 years, and their favourite fantasy sport is American football (69.4%).
Overall, fantasy sports represents a growing sector of the gambling industry, especially in North America, and more companies are expected to enter the market, which is said to have a US$ 4bn annual economic impact across the sports industry.