US Fantasy Sports gets Nevada nod to marry fantasy with pari-mutuel betting

usf-fantasy-sportsNevada inched closer to getting its first licensed fantasy sports operator after regulators gave initial approval to the application of a Nevada hall of famer.

On Wednesday, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB) unanimously approved the application of US Fantasy Sports (USF), the startup that’s looking to shake up the daily fantasy sports industry by marrying it with pari-mutuel pool betting.

The GCB’s approval of an off-track, pari-mutuel sports system operator’s license leaves only a nod from the Nevada Gaming Commission as the remaining regulatory obstacle in USF’s path. The site hopes to be up and running by late August, in time for the new NFL season.

USF is fronted by Vic Salerno, the chairman of William Hill US and a member of the American Gaming Association Hall of Fame. USF was the first operator to apply for a fantasy license after last October’s opinion by Nevada’s state attorney general that DFS operators required state pool betting licenses.

In an interview with ESPN’s David Purdum, Salerno said USF would use a system developed by Mike Knapp, another Nevada sportsbook vet and a former consultant to California’s Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Knapp said the public trend over the past three decades was moving toward a “bet-a-little-win-a-lot proposition” and his system promised not only a low bar to entry but offered novice bettors a more relatable odds presentation than traditional sportsbooks.

Like horses, USF’s system ranks athletes in terms of their odds of finishing first in a given category, like which NFL quarterback will throw for the most yards on any given Sunday, while bettors select a QB to win, place or show. Like all pari-mutuel pools, the odds on players will adjust as new wagers are placed.

USF further simplifies the process by allowing bettors to enter a contest by selecting a single athlete. USF also plans to speed up the selection process by capping the menu of athletes per position at 20, rather than the exhaustive lists found on other DFS sites.

Other standard racetrack wagers are also part of USF’s menu, including exactas, trifectas, pick-sixes and daily doubles. USF will also run a weekly Super Seven Progressive jackpot that requires bettors to pick the top performer in seven different NFL positions.

USF will keep a share of the prize pool, which Salerno suggests will be around 10%. Salerno thinks the pari-mutuel format will result in “80 to 90%” of USF players getting at least some of their money back, which he calls “almost the opposite” of the traditional DFS division of spoils, which disproportionately go to elite players.

USF plans to start by offering its services via the 79 casino members of the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association, but Salerno hopes to eventually team up with pari-mutuel operators in other states where fantasy sports are either legal or are on a path to becoming legal.