Diehl ’18: Warning — fantasy sports betting is highly addictive

Sports Columnist
Friday, October 16, 2015

I’ve been spending a lot of time on my computer screen recently. Not because of an increase in work, and not because I’ve found a new computer game to play (I was terrible at all of them, so I gave that up awhile ago). The culprit: DraftKings, or more broadly, daily fantasy sports betting. They have many ways of getting you to give them your money, and I’m here to tell you what you’re getting into.

In case you don’t know what daily fantasy is, let’s take the NFL, for example. Instead of having a season-long team, each week you pick a new team of players, and each costs a certain amount of fictional money. Your team has to fit under a set salary cap to keep everything fair. Then you enter whichever league you want for a certain amount of real money — anywhere from $3 to 300 times that.

It all started with the 500 TV commercials, many of them with a unique code you can apply to get a double bonus on your deposit. Despite my “300”-Spartan-like effort to fend off the Persian army of commercials, they finally wore me down. After all, my brain was vastly outnumbered by the people on the commercials: regular, average guys like “Chad” who decided to sign up and then made $300,000 on DraftKings.

The commercials make you believe you can be a big winner. And with a promise to match your deposit, you feel like you’re winning big. Truth is, Chad and the gang are a bunch of liars.

Once I bothered to do the research and saw that the double deposit is only released dollar-by-dollar over a long period of time, I felt betrayed. But no matter — I could keep playing and winning money. Unfortunately, I have only won money in a precious few competitions I’ve entered. Although my net balance is only -$26, my ego has been bruised.

I thought I was an above-average fantasy player. What I failed to realize is that there are plenty of above-average fantasy players on DraftKings. People who have a faulty sense of confidence when it comes to fantasy prowess. Know that once you enter a competition, there will be plenty of people who have selected many of the same players you did. Your ability to win big instantly gets capped. And you’re stuck losing $3 each time you play. Time to go to CVS to get a Band-Aid for that wounded ego.

You see, DraftKings’ business model is very similar to that of a casino, except the biggest threats their bouncers pose amount to a “poke” on Facebook. On any given night, you know the house will come out on top. But it’s the people who win who stand out — the people you think you’ll become.

Having “skill” in fantasy is almost rendered irrelevant when you’re competing against 200,000 other people in the same contest. In a 12-team season-long league, it is a lot easier to separate yourself from the rest of the pack, because no one else can own the players you do.

Though I have yet to enter a high-risk, high-reward league (which for my budget would mean a $25-$50 entry), I think this gives you a better chance of winning, even though the majority of people will still be out of their cash by the end of the weekend, especially in NFL daily. I have had more success betting on the English Premier League and golf than the NFL, though I still enjoy participating in NFL pools each week.

Playing daily fantasy on DraftKings is almost like going to a remodeled McDonald’s. Deep down, you know what you’re getting into, but the flashy surface makes you forget that you’re wasting your money. That Big Mac is still pink slime. And DraftKings will probably make you lose money.

I’ll still play DraftKings for the time being, because it truly does add a new dimension and personality to watching sports. But if, or when, my money runs out, don’t expect me to play again. Unless, of course, I’m working for DraftKings and using unreleased numbers and information to win $350,000 on a competing daily fantasy website.

Oh, someone already did that? Rats, gotta find a new way to scam people. Time to try to break into finance.


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