Written by Gaurav Sharma Posted September 12, 2014 by Carolina
Fantasy sports are highly popular games where players form custom teams using the statistics of real sports professionals to play against other individuals in the same fantasy sports league. Each fantasy league operates on the same timeline as the professional league. Because the fantasy teams incorporate players from many different teams, the real-time statistics of each player are used to award points based on player performance during games.
There is no limit to the type of sports a fantasy league can focus on or even a limitation suggesting the league must rely on a sport. Indeed, until 2009 there was even a fantasy league for the United States Congress where points were awarded based on the number of actions completed by each member of the Senate and House.
With all the interesting possibilities available for creating a fantasy sports league of your own, it may be surprising to discover that choosing a sport to follow is merely one of the many necessary components to launching a successful fantasy sports portal.
What are the Key Components?
The Interface and the applications
The interaction point for the end users is the interface of the portal/application. The design of the interface must be crisp and clean, and creating a lineup should be intuitive. A fantasy sports portal is a content and data rich application. As such, the information architecture used to develop the portal plays a fundamental role in determining the success or failure of a newly formed league. Information architecture is the science of classifying, labeling and organizing information within websites and intranets in a way that enhances a user’s ability to find information quickly. Although this is important for any website, it can make or break a fantasy sports portal. Even an attractively designed and well-optimized fantasy sports website can fall flat without user-friendly information architecture because visitors will often take their business elsewhere if they cannot find information on your site easily.
The feed engine is an essential part of any fantasy portal because it gathers, processes and displays historic and real-time player statistics to site visitors. Because visitors expect accurate historic data and real-time player statistics, it is important to ensure the source of the data is as reliable as the data processor used to relay the information.
Beyond the feed engine and interface, the most enticing element for players is the game engine used for the portal. There is a wide assortment of game engines available, so the one you choose to power your fantasy sports game will define not only the type of sports portal you have but also the type of players you will attract to your application.
This is an entry level contest where participants predict the results of a game. The participants are awarded points based on the final outcome of the game and the accuracy of their predictions. This game engine is very popular because it is user-friendly and easy to understand.
Participants in salary cap leagues receive a predetermined salary level for filling their team roster. Participants can select any athlete within their sport for their team so long as they remain within the limits of their salary. Rosters can be filled with any athlete, regardless of whether another participant has selected them for their team.
League style games are based on rules established by the operator. Participants compete in private or public leagues using unique teams that are selected using either a live draft or a player allocation tool. Drafts are separated into two major categories: Snake and Auction. A snake draft requires a random number generator to predetermine draft order for every team in the league. Once assigned a draft order, teams select players for their roster one player at a time according to the rules of the league until the roster is full. Although this type of draft is currently very popular, the number of players who prefer portals that use the snake draft method is declining in favor of the more complex auction draft. In an auction draft, members have the ability to select any available player so long as they have the funds available. Players are nominated for auction by the league owner, then teams are able to place bids on that player until only one high bid remains. The bidding continues until each team has a full roster, with each subsequent winning bid deducted from the team owner’s available budget. Once the draft is complete, team owners can make changes to their teams through trades, waiver claims, and roster realignments based on the rules of the league.
Commissioner games are the most flexible in terms of gameplay, team selection, and scoring. The commissioner sets the rules for the league, often incorporating aspects from multiple divisions to create a more diverse game for players. Team owners use an online draft to create unique rosters for the duration of the league. These games are typically run on a pay-to-play model and can be used for any sport.
This type of fantasy sport portal allows participants to predict the outcomes of tournament style competitions such as the NCAA Tournament, the World Cup, the National Open Championships and the International Masters Championships. Bracket games use weighted scoring, which generates higher rewards for participants who correctly predict outcomes for games deeper into a tournament.
Legality and Regulatory Considerations
Playing fantasy sports for money is entirely legal under federal law, in most of the cases. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 includes exemptions for fantasy sports games that meet three criteria:
Prizes must be established ahead of time, known to all participants, and cannot be based on the number of participants or the fees paid to participate
Winning outcomes are determined by the skill and knowledge of the participants and are based on the accumulated statistics of player performance over multiple real-world events
The fantasy game’s outcome is not based on the final scores of any real-world games or on any single performance of an individual athlete in a single real-world event
Some state laws may be stricter than federal law. Montana, Louisiana, Arizona, Vermont, Iowa, North Dakota, Washington State and Puerto Rico prohibit fantasy sports games played for money. Other states allow fantasy sports leagues to play for cash so long as certain criteria are met:
Entry fees cannot be used as the reward for winning
The person offering the prize must be a non-participant in the game and therefore have no way of winning back the prize offered
Games must be based on the skill and knowledge of the participants rather than chance or the skill of the professional athlete in an actual game.
The precise definition of ‘chance’ varies by state. In most states, play-for-cash contests are only illegal if they involve more chance than skill. This is called the “predominant purpose test” which evaluates how much of the final result is determined by chance, rather than the skill or knowledge of the participants. By contrast, some states use an “any chance test” that rules a fantasy sports game is illegal if the results are based even in the smallest part on chance. In “any chance” states, most forms of play-for-cash fantasy sports would violate the state gambling laws because even the most intricate fantasy football contests involve some chance with respect to weather conditions and injuries. The exceptions to this rule are games which also fall under the “social game” or “in-house game” categories. Additionally, Florida and Kansas have historically questioned the legality of pay-for-play fantasy sports. However, CBS and Yahoo have operated play-for-cash fantasy football leagues in both states for years without a legal challenge
Finally, certain unique formats for fantasy sports leagues are more risky under both federal and state law. Although traditional fantasy sports are legal in most states, leagues that stray from the traditional skill-to-chance ratio present greater risk. For example, a fantasy basketball league that gives points based on the final scores of real-world games would not be protected by the fantasy sports exemption under federal law. In addition, fantasy sports leagues that involve smaller roster sizes or a shorter fantasy seasons involve greater risk because the results of games with fewer iterations are more heavily influenced by chance.
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