While leading Daily Fantasy Sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel have balked at the opportunity to be licensed in the state of Nevada due to the fear of being classified as betting, that has not stopped sportsbook operators from moving forward with plans to compete in the space this year. Vic Salerno, the former CEO of American Wagering and Leroy’s sportsbooks, is hoping to be the first with his new company U.S. Fantasy.
Salerno made pari-mutuel sports wagering available with his company Mega Sports in the late 1990s, and U.S. Fantasy would follow a similar platform. The idea is to simply swap out horses for human athletes and allow betting on their achievements, according to Salerno, something he is surprised has not happened already in Nevada.
On June 8, the state’s Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to recommend that U.S. Fantasy receive an off-track, pari-mutuel sports system operator’s license. Now the Nevada Gaming Commission just needs to sign off on the move by approving it later this month. If that happens, Salerno will be the first to legally break into the business, which could put the state’s sports betting handle well past the $5-billion mark in 2016.
Last year, Nevada’s sports betting handle reached a record $4.2 billion, nearly doubling the $2.6 billion recorded in 2006. Salerno projects that fantasy sports betting would consist of more than 50 percent new players wagering in the market, with that number possibly reaching 80 percent due to the rising interest in fantasy sports overall.
Many sportsbooks have previously talked about bringing fantasy sports betting to Las Vegas, but they have been limited to offering simple props like picking the NFL player to score the most points among a small group of other competitors. For example, who will have the most fantasy points among quarterbacks between Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton?
However, these props proved to be very beatable with low limits at Station Casino sportsbooks, which ultimately made the local casino chain remove them from the betting board altogether. It is believed Salerno’s U.S. Fantasy would require bettors to put together a fantasy football lineup similar to other DFS contests with bettors competing for a jackpot prize of at least a million dollars.
Fantasy football players in the state had been able to participate in DraftKings and FanDuel contests until last October, when the Nevada Gaming Commission ruled that they were considered sports betting rather than games of skill. The Gaming Commission had told both companies that they could continue to operate in Nevada as long as they obtained the proper gaming license, but neither chose to do so, instead making it a higher priority to stay in much bigger markets across the country in New York and Illinois.
Both states have since followed Nevada’s lead and deemed DFS illegal, although DraftKings and FanDuel have continued their fight to prove otherwise.
The Nevada Governor’s Gaming Policy Committee met on the topic again in March and showed strong support for fantasy sports wagering, although they still viewed it as betting which must be regulated. As long as that is the case, DraftKings and FanDuel will continue to be outlawed there, leaving sportsbooks to propose viable alternatives.