The number of Americans paying to participate in fantasy sports has grown at a 7.8 percent rate annually over five years. That growth has transformed what was once a small group of devoted players into a multibillion-dollar business.
In 2013, an estimated 33.6 million players participated in basketball, football, baseball and hockey fantasy leagues. The business generates more than $3.3 billion in spending on products, services and entry fees.
“The industry is obviously going well,” Fantasy Sports Trade Association President Paul Charchian told more than 320 attendees at the opening of the industry trade group’s winter meeting at Bellagio.
Charchian expressed his amazement that the association was meeting at a luxury Strip hotel-casino.
“We are at the … Bellagio,” Charchian said. “It wasn’t too long ago it was so small that we held it at the Stardust the week before they demolished it. We are all grown up.”
Charchian said the association will be rolling out a new website soon while it prepares to hold its summer meeting in San Francisco.
The two-day meeting featured among other events a Fantasy Sports Trade Association board meeting, a live fantasy baseball draft on SiriusXM radio, and panel discussions on bringing fantasy sports to the Strip, legal updates and emerging technology.
“The legal environment is pretty good right now,” said Peter Schoenke, president and co-founder of Rotowire.com and association board member.
Schoenke said the association was lobbying to change laws in Washington, Arizona and Iowa to allow for legal fantasy sports games in those states. Schoenke said he expects legislation this spring in Arizona and Iowa.
“We are going to have some good news,” Schoenke said as the legal panel discussion’s moderator.
Marc Zwillinger, founder of the law firm ZwillGen PLL, cautioned attendees that fantasy should stay away from gambling, especially with the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling drafting a bill to expand the federal Wire Act and make it apply to fantasy sports.
“It’s a very dangerous time,” Zwillinger said.
Glenn Colton, a partner in Dentons U.S. LLP, was hopeful they would leave the fantasy exception in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, but said “anything can happen.”
“This is a time to be careful,” Colton said. “It is not betting. Don’t call it betting. Fantasy is skill-based.”
A New York-based media company used the convention to launch its 24/7 television network dedicated to fantasy sports. On March 4, the network, created by Anthem Media Group Inc., will become available in North America.
Anthem Media said it hopes to reach as many of the estimated 33 million people in North America who play fantasy sports as possible.
“With the fantasy sports industry growing more rapidly and arguably larger than the business of underlying sports themselves, the time to create a multifaceted media property for the industry is now,” Fantasy Sports Network Chief Strategy Officer Louis Malone said.
Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at email@example.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.