The 2015 NFL season had a huge impact on the fantasy sports world. As most will recall, the months leading up to the NFL season, as well as the first few weeks of games, saw an absolute blast of fantasy sports commercials. It was literally impossible to turn on the radio, TV, or open up a magazine without seeing an ad for FanDuel, DraftKings, or both. After a few weeks of this incessant bombardment, however, the plans of these fantasy sports brands began to backfire in a big way.
Government bodies from around the United States began to crack down on fantasy football for real money. Some states, like Nevada, shut down operators outright. New York eventually did the same. This sent the industry into a tail spin that was reminiscent of the impacts of the 2006 UIGEA decision that destroyed the online poker landscape.
As we enter the 2016 NFL season, a lot has changed. Some states have already put regulated fantasy football into action, others have backed down on their opposition, and the remainder continue to allow the major sites to operate. Now, given that your money seems to be safe and playing fantasy football is a legal option, is it still worth playing? The easy money from weak players will inevitably dry up, so the question is whether there is a lot of money left to be made, or if you would instead be better off the old fashioned way, betting on NFL games.
The ultimate goal for active sports bettors and fantasy football enthusiasts alike is to make money. Yes, everyone would also like to have fun in the process, but the idea of untold riches is what attracts the masses. Now, there are two different ways to look at your profit potential when comparing these two different options.
Your *likelihood* of turning a profit, large or small, is much higher when betting on sports. You will be at just a few percentage point disadvantage vs. the house (sportsbook) on any given bet. With fantasy football, however, the odds are stacked against you. If 10-30% of the total player pool stands to generate any sort of positive return in a fantasy football event, this puts you behind the 8 ball right away. With sports betting, you are a little worse than 50/50 to generate a profit, assuming you are placing -110 wagers.
The biggest difference between betting on football games and entering fantasy football for real money is your maximum win potential. Unless you are betting on parlays with many different teams, you are going to usually win a small multiple of your bet when wagering on an NFL game. This holds true whether you are betting on the moneyline, over/under, or just about anything else. With fantasy football, however, you can risk $10 or $20 and have the opportunity to win hundreds of thousands or even a million dollars. The trouble, of course, is that you will need to beat 100,000 or more fellow competitors in order to see this type of return.
The other problem with fantasy football is that the payouts are very, very top heavy. You might finish ahead of 90% of the field but only net a win of two times your buy in. In fact, you can beat a full 99% of the field and still only win a relatively small amount. You need to not only be good at fantasy football to generate a very high ROI, but you also have to be extremely lucky. If you look at the lineups of the winning players, you will usually find that they made some very outlandish choices in their roster, but that’s what it takes to separate yourself from a field of 100,000 or more runners. So yes, you have the potential to win much more with fantasy football than betting on games, but you will do so much, much less frequently.
There isn’t much denying that, with the exception of a few states, the legal dynamic of betting on fantasy football is a bit of a grey area. With that said, most would agree that it’s legality is more on the safe side than that of online sports betting. Again, however, things become complicated, as it is usually the operator (bookie/bookmaker) who accepts legal liability for sports bets, not the one placing the bets.
As a player, your biggest risk is simply in depositing your money onto a site or company that you find trustworthy. If your state is against fantasy football, don’t be surprised if you have a payout denied. Conversely, if you deposit onto a sports betting site without a positive, lengthy history in the industry, you should know that you are quite literally rolling the dice. Both fantasy football and NFL betting are not straightforward when it comes to being legal or illegal, so consider your jurisdiction and make your most well informed decision accordingly.