Have you heard of a fantasy sports game that doesn’t want your money but would like to give you some?
Canadian digital sports media company theScore has launched a new fantasy sports app, QuickDraft, which offers daily contests with real cash prizes but zero entry fees.
Meaning, this free-to-play game could survive the legal scrutiny that the fantasy sports industry is facing in Canada and the U.S. because players will not have to put their own money at risk even as cash prizes are offered.
QuickDraft, a mobile-first game, allows users to draft line-ups of five athletes and compete for cash prizes of $100 to $1,000 for the daily winners. The app will first focus on NFL games with other major leagues coming soon. Entries are also limited to one per contest and the use of scripts (computer algorithms that allow participants to automate line-up edits) is prohibited.
“We wanted to provide a fantasy game that was accessible to all sports fans,” said John Levy, Founder and CEO of theScore. “Fantasy sports has lost its way by allowing gameplay that caters to professionals instead of sports fans. We think this makes for a poor experience.”
Michael Lipton, a partner in the Toronto office of the Dickinson Wright law firm, said that “as soon as you have risk consideration and prize, you are into a situation where there is gambling.” However, he added that if you offer a free-to-play game (not specifically referring to QuickDraft) and the player who has the most points gets a prize or cash, makes it okay.
“So if you and I and all our friends and brothers and sisters and cousins go on this site and play for a day or a week and it doesn’t cost us anything but our time and … you win $1,000, that’s okay because you haven’t lost anything,” said Lipton.
Lipton also noted that the app can be considered legal in the US but might be probed at the state level.
New York judge Manuel Mendez is expected to issue an opinion soon that may go a long way toward determining the future of the daily fantasy industry. Should Mendez rule that FanDuel and DraftKings are nothing but gambling sites, it could serve as a precedent for more states.
QuickDraft is built on the predecessor game Swoopt that theScore acquired in December. According to Levy, the company had planned to launch a paid fantasy product but shifted to a free model due to the controversies currently surrounding the industry.
“We’re not insensitive to what’s going on in the landscape,” said Levy. “We thought the best decision is to get this out there and make it available free and build on it from there.”
Levy also added that although theScore has its own legal opinion that supports the legality of fantasy sports, the company would wait on the clarity of legislation.
“It’s clear that regulation in some form or fashion is going to be part of daily fantasy sports,” Levy told investors in November. “We’re prepared for that and will respond to that how it comes to pass, whether federally or state by state.”