From a courtroom in New York City, to the California State Assembly, and seemingly everywhere in between, policymakers are trying to dictate whether or not daily fantasy sports participation falls under a “game of luck” or a “game of skill”. The answer to this very important question varies dramatically depending on who you ask.
Take for example New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, he believes so strongly that DFS is a game of chance that he has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent DFS operators from taking wagers in New York. In a brief his office filed with the court, he states, “Like any sports wager, a DFS wager depends on a ‘future contingent event’ wholly outside the control or influence of any bettor”. Sure, as soon as your lineup is locked, you can sit back and let things play out. This is similar to horse racing where you place your bet, then enjoy your horse winning by 6 lengths, or you crumple your ticket into a ball and do your best LeBron James impression shooting it into the trash can.
Of course, betting on the ponies and its’ “future contingent events” is completely legal in New York.
In that same court case, a brilliant affidavit entered into the proceedings on behalf of FanDuel shows us how those in the statistics and engineering fields feel about the luck vs. skill argument. MIT professor Anette (Peko) Hosoi lays out in very clear terms how DFS is very much based on skill. The focus is on these 3 key points:
The first two points effectively say that if you take a person who wins a lot at DFS, and pit them against either a person with little knowledge of DFS, or against a completely random lineup, the big winner will be victorious most of the time. The final point drives home the fact that the more you play, the better you will get. Making rookie mistakes that prove costly will happen far less frequently with time.
Humans are not machines that can be programmed to be completely random. Throughout sports seasons, trends start to emerge out of the mountains of data that can be collected on individual players on the field, team scoring histories, weather conditions, home field advantage, and more. You will start to see some players consistently doing better statistically than others, which will make them more popular DFS picks, leading to a rise in their DFS salary value. On the surface, you might make an NBA lineup full of players from teams that, according to Vegas odds, should be scoring a lot during a particular night. While that isn’t necessarily a bad strategy, those who make a living at DFS know that there is much more to it, and that a point total is just the tip of the iceberg of data.
The ability to consistently find players who over-perform when compared to their salary value is what makes someone a DFS professional. There isn’t such thing as a Powerball professional, or a bingo professional (both of which are legal in nearly every state and regulated accordingly) since those games are completely luck based. Real skill involves interpreting the data available to you, and making educated decisions based on it.