What Are Daily Fantasy Sports? How Does DFS Work & How To Play

fantasy sports premier league exampleIf you were situated across the pond in the United States of America and you were even marginally involved or had a dalliance with sports betting of any kind, the chances are that you will have heard of fantasy sports betting. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) exploded in the US in 2006 when a federal ban on online gambling meant that this was one of the only sports prediction games citizens could use and win money.  It wasn't banned along with other forms of online gambling thanks to the fact that it was viewed as a game of skill rather than gambling.

It’s not quite as well known about or integrated into the United Kingdom’s betting scene, though. That all seems to be changing, and for various reasons, fantasy sports betting is starting to grow in popularity throughout the country.  Part of the reason it is taking off in the UK is now some of the largest UK betting sites have partnered with or acquired US firms as they look to enter the US market now online gambling is regulated on a state level.  This means a lot of the DFS products have now become available through UK sites. The question is, what exactly is fantasy sports betting and how do you engage in it?

Already popular across the United States, this version of sports betting does have the potential to take off in the same way that both live dealer casino games and mobile gambling have done in the past. And this is even more possible considering the influx of American companies and brands that are entering into the UK’s betting scene. If you’re interested in finding out more about this betting option, you’re in the right place. Here, we’re going to look at what exactly fantasy sports wagering is, where it is already available in the UK and how you can go about playing such. In fact, if you have ever played the pools, then it may be quite familiar to you on some level.

Fanteam: Best UK Focused DFS Site

There are now a few bookies out there with daily fantasy sports available but ultimately these are add-on products. If you want to play DFS tournaments properly you need to play with a brand that does this as their main product and the best place you can do that in the UK is with Fanteam.

Fanteam were set up in 2014, way before the US companies started to merge with the big UK brands introducing DFS, and it is ultimately their bread and butter. They offer free and paid tournaments for the US sports like NFL, basketball, etc., but they mostly have a UK/European focus with official, draft 'n' go and user created tournaments for football, tennis, motor sports, cricket and even horse racing. They are also very strong when it comes to eSports tournaments too.

Fanteam also have a fully stocked independent sportsbook too and so it is possible to place normal sports bets as you would anywhere else, they just also happen to have a dedicated DFS side that is frankly better than what any other UK-facing sites do.

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The History of Fantasy Sports and Team Picking

daily fantasy sports word cloudThe general concept behind fantasy sports betting is for you as the player to pick your own virtual team from a selection of proxies of real players. This can be a football team or a basketball team, for example. Teams then compete based on the performance of those players in actual games, utilising the statistics from such to provide an outcome. Points are provided based on each of the players’ performances, and these are then compiled and totalled. Furthermore, while betting on fantasy sports, owners of teams will draft, trade and cut players from their teams in a similar way to managers of real-life sports teams.

The whole idea of picking sports players and running contests based on their statistics from playing live games is not something that is new. In fact, this idea has been around since about the conclusion of World War II. One of the earliest forms of fantasy sports was when a fantasy golf tournament was set up. Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach, a California businessman, was responsible for conjuring it up towards the end of the 1950s.

Each player wanting to participate in the tournament chose a team of professional golfers and the entrant who had the lowest number of total strokes at the end of the tournament was deemed the winner. Golf is, of course, quite a simple fantasy sport to keep a track of, due to the fact that there is little to complicate matters. Winkenbach’s tournament was simply done for fun though, rather than as something that became a nationwide hobby or any kind of business.

However, in 1962, he formed the first ever fantasy football league. This went by the name of the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL), featuring eight teams. Fantasy baseball began two years prior to that in Boston, and it didn’t take long for a few other sports to follow suit.

Fantasy sports grew and developed over the continuing decades, and with the internet boom, it was allowed to expand even further. In October of 1995, the Canadian company Molson Breweries launched its own fantasy hockey website. Through this, visitors could register accounts and partake in hockey leagues featuring nine teams, with a visitor being a general manager for one of them. Teams would be drafted from a pool of NHL players, and later on, trades could be made with other teams in the league.

Through the late 90s and into the 2000s, fantasy sports grew throughout the United States of America, although was never really picked up in such large amounts elsewhere. Daily fantasy sports (DFS) is what stands out as the popular betting option of today in this sector, and it is this that is gaining popularity in the UK, too. The idea behind this is the same, but the contests take place across a shorter period of time.

Competing Companies Vie for Control

dfs conceptDaily fantasy sports in the United States is an industry that is dominated by two specific companies – FanDuel, which bases itself out of New York, and DraftKings, located in Boston. These two companies have an estimated value of more than $1 billion as of 2015. The popular Paddy Power brand has introduced its own daily fantasy sports platform, which is based on FanDuel. This is of little surprise, considering that in 2018 Paddy Power Betfair agreed to merge its U.S. business with FanDuel as a way of targeting the U.S. sports betting market.

You’ll also find that there are dedicated providers of daily fantasy sports operating in the UK already too, such as FanTeam, which offers a myriad of DFS options. FanTeam exists as Europe’s largest site providing such betting options, with others like Yahoo! Sports, Sportito and Fantasy Aces all offering their own fantasy sports possibilities alongside. Regardless of which, DraftKings and FanDuel still control a huge portion of the market – around 95% of it in the USA – and now they will likely be looking to compete for control of the UK market as it grows.

Many people believe that the popularity of this type of sports betting comes from the fact that it is highly convenient when compared to season-length fantasy sports wagering or even standard sports betting. With a heavy focus placed on major cash prizes from player involvement and the additional promotion that television viewership of sports events gets as a result of DFS.

Can DFS Success In The US Be Mirrored In The UK?

united states flag and welcome signWell, actually, it very much could be. There is a big difference between fantasy sports betting and standard sports betting – with the former providing much more of a sense of personal achievement. Considering that the player has to construct his or her own sports team and then back it with their own money rather than simply bet on a team to win, players feel much more involved. And it is this factor that some people believe will help daily fantasy sports to reach new heights in the UK.

“Due to the nature of constructing a team for Daily Fantasy as opposed to betting on a line set by the sports betting market, a user actually has more control over their outcome when playing Daily Fantasy”, said Sean Koerner, Director of Predictive Analytics for the STATS company. “This is why it is still considered a game of ‘skill’ as opposed to ‘gambling’”, he continued.

And it is for this reason that companies have already started vying for the top spot of DFS in the UK market. Prior to DFS launching in a big way in the UK, market trends suggested that there was a definitive base of players who would be interested in it. Three million people were marked as participating in the Premier League’s own fantasy product alone. And with that userbase, as well as many others who participate in standard sports betting and even casino gaming, DFS has a great foundation to build upon in the UK.

How To Play Daily Fantasy Sports

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As more and more online DFS websites become available, the likelihood is that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Of course, it is always ideal to sign up to a trustworthy, respectable and licensed platform for any kind of betting activity. And once you have signed up for an account at the site, participating in DFS betting is a simple process.

Different sites will provide different sports for you to assemble teams for, including the NBA, football, the NFL and golf, for example. You proceed with constructing your dream team of players from different sides playing. This should be done based upon who you believe will perform the best that day and essentially secure you the victory. During an event, the players earn you points if they play well, or they lose points should they tank.

The team that you have assembled is entered into a league with other punters, and of course, you back them with your bets. At the end of each day, the team in that same league with the most points is deemed the overall winner and obtains cash as the winning manager. Contests for DFS usually last for about one day, although you can opt to enter into options that last for a few days, if you have a preference for that. You can follow how your team is progressing throughout the contest that you are in as well.

Every manager that enters his or her team into the league places a bet that backs them. This gathers a pot of money together, and the winning team manager at the end of the day or end of the overall contest is the recipient of most of that money as their payout. Simple, right? What happens to the remainder of the funds? Well, that goes to the operator – after all, they have to continue running the service!

If this is something that you are new to though, it is important to be a little wary. Why? Because there are people who participate in DFS in a professional manner. This means that they are able to utilise statistics, algorithms and other tools so as to try and win more frequently. The fact is that many contests exist as multi-entry options, and this is something that the professional players can exploit to their advantage. Then again, this is the same in any kind of betting – there will always be those who don’t simply participate in it for fun. Instead, they look at it as more of a side career or profession and tend to take advantage of the players who are considered ‘small fish’.

Why Is DFS Taking Off In The United Kingdom?

uk union jack flagAs noted, DFS has been hugely popular in the United States for many years, and this is despite certain states taking the decision to ban the activity within their borders. Obviously, companies know that there is a market for it in the UK, considering the figures associated with fantasy football through the Premier League and even through video games like the Football Manager series, for example.

However, it’s not only that, but companies from the United States have been making their way into the UK gambling scene over the past couple of years. In recent times, MGM Resorts has been exploring ways in which it may completely take over BetMGM, which is currently has a 50/50 stake in with Entain, while DraftKings has also made a $22 billion offer for the Entain brand. This is the company that has possession of the Ladbrokes, Coral and PartyPoker brands that are well-known throughout the United Kingdom.

Earlier on in 2021, William Hill sold all non-US properties to the 888 Holdings brand for $2.8 billion. The company was acquired by the U.S-based casino operator known as Caesars Entertainment for $4 billion. Spending on UK gambling companies by U.S. brands has skyrocketed, reaching more than $22.6 billion according to figures by Bloomberg.

Of course, these companies see the prime opportunity that the UK gambling scene has to offer when it comes to providing daily fantasy sports. And the big-name brands like FanDuel and DraftKings will want to be making the same impact on this scene as they have in the USA. As noted, FanDuel already possesses the Paddy Power platform, so it has a head start with the potential domination of the UK DFS market. And there are few doubts over whether this type of betting will become hugely popular in the country. The only question that remains for the moment is how fast is it going to reach that level?

By all accounts, American sports in general are also growing in popularity in the UK, with more people tuning in to watch and enjoy the NFL, NBA, MLB and so on today than ever before. If DFS sites are providing the opportunity to form baseball teams, basketball teams and so on, all of the key elements are there for this to be the next big thing in the United Kingdom.