DraftKings Launches Leagues, Ethics Initiative

As the National Football League (NFL) season approaches, daily fantasy sports (DFS) players are getting geared up for another season of getting pissed off when a coach rests the starting running back in a blowout when ALL I NEED IS TWO MORE MEASLY YARDS TO WIN MY HEAD-TO-HEAD CONTEST! The DFS sites are getting ready, too; DraftKings, fresh off of a sigh of release now that DFS has been legalized in New York, has launched a new “Leagues” offering, a sort of hybrid daily/season long fantasy offering.

Make no mistake, this is still daily fantasy sports, but DraftKings’ Leagues allows players to compete against their friends for an entire season. It is a fairly simple concept: players form a private group, or league, with their friends and compete during the season for cash and bragging rights. The league matches are closed to the rest of the DraftKings ecosystem, so while there won’t be gazillion dollar prizes, there also won’t be thousands of strangers playing, either.

Leagues are fully customizable – they can involve any of the sports DraftKings offers (though the launch just a few weeks before the NFL season is no coincidence) and include leaderboards so league members can see how they stack up against each other as a season progresses. Those leaderboards seem like they are intended to give Leagues a more “season-long fantasy” feel, so that the daily fantasy contests don’t exist as just one-off competitions.

DraftKingsI know when I used to play a lot of season-long fantasy sports, I usually didn’t participate in a money league. Fortunately, DraftKings isn’t requiring leagues to play for real money; friends can compete for free if they wish. It appears that all contests within leagues are optional, as well (don’t quote me on this), so if, say, someone is going on vacation one week and won’t have time to set a lineup, he or she can just not play that week’s contest while the rest of the league members do.

For ease of management, the league’s commissioner (another nod to season-long fantasy) can set recurring contests.

DraftKings COO and co-founder Paul Liberman told Legal Sports Report, “We’ve heard a lot of customer feedback, really since we started DraftKings, saying ‘It’s a really cool product, I love daily fantasy, I love what you offer, but it’s really hard to play with friends. It took some time to think about how we were going to build it, what does it need. ”

“The goal was to create almost a private version of DraftKings, for you and your friends and your colleagues. And to make it easier to smack talk amongst a small group.”

Of course, DraftKings is a for-profit entity, so the addition of Leagues, even when they could be played for free, is not likely to be a philanthropic. Certainly, it will make the experience of playing at DraftKings more fun, therefore making players happy, but it is also a way for DraftKings to bring in new players. It’s not that people will see Leagues and say, “Wow! I’d better go sign up! Can’t miss this,” it’s that existing customers can invite whomever they would like.

Part of the social aspect of the game is that DraftKings customers can invite their friends via e-mail, text, Facebook, or Twitter. And those friends do not have to be DraftKings customers themselves. Thus, I could shoot a text over to my brother and tell him to join my league. He clicks (er…taps) the link on his phone, creates an account, and there you go – he is now a DraftKings customer. We might end up playing our entire League season for no buy-ins, but who’s to say that my brother wouldn’t deposit a few bucks of his own and try some of the guaranteed prize pool tourneys? Nobody is to say, that’s who.

All jokes aside, though, Leagues does seem pretty cool, to use ultra-professional language. DFS, despite its flaws, is an enjoyable hobby, but it is missing the fun and camaraderie of season-long fantasy sports. Leagues is an attempt to bring both together.

In other DraftKings news, created a “Game Integrity & Ethics Team” last week, tasked with making sure games are fair and players do not engage in unethical behavior. To that point, DraftKings issued “Community Guidelines” on its site so that appropriate player behavior is laid out in black and white (or green and red, as the case may be).

“It’s critical to us at DraftKings that everyone has FUN,” the site reads. “That means fairness and integrity of play must be maintained at all times. We encourage players to talk and strategize with their friends and fellow fantasy sports players about your contests and lineups, but it’s important to remember a few simple rules.”

The guidelines list “acceptable” and “unacceptable” behaviors. As most people generally know what acceptable behaviors are, we’ll list out what DraftKings deems as unacceptable, which are all actions that are lumped under the umbrella of “group play behavior”:

1.    Team-building a lineup or a set of complimentary lineups meant to work together for the benefit of those involved and to the detriment of the other players. Essentially, colluding.
2.    Buying or selling pre-built lineups from third party websites.
3.    Having someone else enter more lineups for you when you have reached your maximum allowable entries for a contest. Multi-accounting, basically.
4.    Having another player enter a lineup for you against an opponent who has blocked you from his head-to-head matches.


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