Should We Be Worried About Collusion in Daily Fantasy Sports?
Daily fantasy sports can’t seem to shake that icky feeling of being wronged or cheated somehow. First we saw all of those over the top commercials during the start of the NFL season in 2015, then lawmakers called it’s legality into question after there was speculation that a DraftKings employee used insider information to win big over at FanDuel.
Two weeks ago the “is DFS all one big scam?” narrative got jump started again at DK, when a public DFS expert and promoter took down the $1,000,000 prize in the “milly maker”. The daily fantasy sports site and the man in question – Al Zeidenfeld – really can’t be blamed, however. Zeidenfeld, a daily fantasy sports enthusiast and expert, even shared many of his week two picks with his Twitter followers.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 29, 2016
That narrative intensified in week three, when Martin Crowley (aka papagates) won big. His big win was naturally met with some serious cynicism once it was learned that he was brothers with one Tom Crowley (aka chipotleaddict), a well-known DFS pro who won the very same contest a year ago.
The two are now being investigated closely by DraftKings to see if they abused the site’s collusion guidelines.
Per CalvinAyre.com, there is growing speculation that the two may have “teamed up” to take down this past week’s big prize, and there may be evidence of collusion that goes back quite a while. The two are brothers, after all.
While this is a serious offense for the site and perhaps the daily fantasy sports realm, it’s fair to wonder if this is truly collusion and if it even matters.
What is Collusion, Really?
DK head of compliance Jennifer Agular insinuated collusion in the eyes of DraftKings is “sharing lineups for the purposes of gaming the system” and that is is “unacceptable”.
The exact definition of collusion does fit the narrative here, too:
“Secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others”.
The reason this comes up is because the “milly maker” contest gives out a massive grand prize and restricts every single user to a maximum of 150 entries.
The idea here would be that the Crowley brothers teamed up to defy that max, potentially creating 150 max entries each, giving them 300 total entries together. They’re brothers (and partners) in this hypothetical conspiracy, which would have them sharing the money as one “winning” entity and in the end, giving them 150 more chances than any other one person would have.
So, yes, by strict definition, if these two Crowley brothers teamed together to earn more entries than the normal single user, they absolutely colluded and really in a sense, cheated.
Proving that could be problematic, but deciding which side of the fence to be on may be the real issue.
Is Colluding Wrong?
If a site doesn’t allow something and money and betting are involved, it’s their decision on whether or not to investigate and ultimately discipline the parties involved.
As outside observers, however, we have to ask ourselves if this exact example is actually true collusion and if it really matters.
The reason why is as the scope widens, any collusion gets a little watered down. For instance, these two brothers hypothetically scamming the system isn’t something that is totally fool proof.
The week three DK Millionaire Maker had over 250,000 entries in it. Two guys working together to maximize their efforts with 300 entries isn’t necessarily going to guarantee they win big – or win at all.
They’re still competing against over 249k other entries.
True collusion in the case of daily fantasy sports would be these two guys entering a high stakes 3-man tournament or something with much better odds, a big entry fee, one big prize and not a lot of people to contend with.
In the 3-man tourney case, you’re basically putting two people against one and combining two minds with two unique lineups. That third guy is probably going to lose.
As the game sizes grow – ultimately to something as massive as the “milly maker” – collusion arguably becomes less of an issue. There is just so much competition, that unless the majority of entries are just more colluding partners, it’s too competitive to get all bent out of shape over who has entries how/where.
Of course, rationalizing fraud is like rationalizing abuse or any kind of cheating. Where does it truly start and end?
Should We Be Worried?
Here’s the part all the casual and even die hard DFS gamers want to know: is this a problem and should we be mad or worried here?
Probably and maybe.
Whether or not these two brothers did this or have done it forever is obviously worth looking into, especially when massive amounts of money are being won. It’s also fair to assume that even if they didn’t do anything wrong, there are a ton of people doing this on DK and other DFS sites, regardless of at what level or how much money is being exchanged.
The end result after looking at this is truly a mixed bag. On one hand, these guys are brothers and they both play daily fantasy sports. Who is to say what they can or can’t talk about when they finalize their DFS lineups every day or week? Trying to regulate how people communicate while playing daily fantasy sports feels a little absurd at first glance, doesn’t it?
Maybe, but the other side paints an ugly portrait of deceit and a lot of honest people losing out on possible big winning just because the big dogs feel like abusing the system.
Ultimately, some type of regulation to prevent this from happening would be ideal. How DraftKings and other DFS sites go about that is anyone’s guess, but colluding is probably happening and probably has been for a while. We either need to accept it and try to work around it, or do what we can to fight it.
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