March, 2010

FSTA Summer Conference Details Begin to Arrive

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association announced earlier this month that its summer conference will once again be in Chicago, the city that hosted each of the past two summer gatherings.

On Sunday, a first draft of the schedule hit the FSTA’s Facebook group page, courtesy of new FSTA manager Megan Van Petten.

The fantasy football draft that regularly opens the event will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 8. The following morning will see the sessions led off by an “exciting” (though as yet unannounced) keynote speaker, according to Van Petten. The day will end with the White Sox-Tigers game at U.S. Cellular Field.

The final day (Thursday) reportedly presents a new format, with different programming options for veteran attendees and newcomers. will have more details as they become available.


Fantasy Fraud Charged with Illegal Gambling

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

The explosion in popularity of fantasy sports has been awesome, but one unfortunate effect is the accompanying emergence of frauds trying to make a buck (or a million) by leveraging the “fantasy” label to front a concept it clearly doesn’t fit.

Washington state officials charge that is just what has been going on with the man behind

David B. Watkins was arrested Thursday in Spokane, Wash., after police raided his home. The raid resulted from an investigation triggered by complaints from Fantasy Thunder users about not getting paid their winnings.

Authorities say Watkins may have operated his site for as long as 10 years, but both reports linked to above seem to highlight the wrong factor in describing the gambling charges . The accusation that Watkins kept 50 percent of the fees paid by his users doesn’t make for an attractive game setup, but it also doesn’t constitute gambling on its own.

To avoid being classified as gambling, any online pay-to-play game must clearly define its prize amounts before the contest start and guarantee those amounts. That’s according to the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, whose Section 132.2(c)(5)(ix) specifically states:

Participation in any fantasy or simulation sports game or educational game or contest in which (if the game or contest involves a team or teams) no fantasy or simulation sports team is based on the current membership of an actual team that is a member of an amateur or professional sports organization (as those terms are defined in 28 U.S.C. 3701) and that meets the following conditions:

(A) All Prizes and awards offered to winning participants are established and made known to the participants in advance of the game or contest and their value is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of any fees paid by those participants.

(B) All winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants and are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of individuals (athletes in the case of sports events) in multiple real-world sporting or other events.

(C) No winning outcome is based-

(1) On the score, point-spread, or any performance or performances of any single real-world team or any combination of such teams, or

(2) Solely on any single performance of an individual athlete in any single real-world sporting or other event.

“Consumers need to be very careful,” said Jeff Thomas, CEO of World Fantasy Games and former president of the FSTA. “In my 18 years in the fantasy sports industry, I’ve seen many fly-by-night companies come and go and they hurt the entire industry with their actions. Consumers and companies considering operating a fantasy game should learn an important lesson from this situation: Work with experienced operators and never use or quote percentage payouts — it’s just the wrong message.”

Thomas points out that is not a member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, an organization that tries to look out for the integrity of fantasy games and provide guidance for new game operators that might be unfamiliar with gaming regulations.

“The FSTA supports the UIGEA and encourages our companies to follow it,” Thomas said. “Experienced game operators know how to structure games to follow all federal and state laws.”

The Fantasy Thunder site has been shut down (hence the tiny images toward the top of this story being the best we could retrieve), and Watkins reportedly could face five years in prison if convicted.

(Note: World Fantasy Games owns and operates


AL Tout: With or Without ‘Fantasyland’

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

The annual Tout Wars auctions are taking place this weekend at Citi Field in New York, gathering many of the top minds from around the fantasy baseball industry.

The AL-only league — which sits at the center of the Fantasyland book and recent documentary — got things rolling Friday night. Before the group gathered at the home of the Mets, however, asked them for some reaction to the movie. Specifically, we asked them each two questions, and here are the answers we got …

1. What do you think of the movie?

Mike Siano, I enjoyed the movie. I thought it stayed close to the overall theme of the book and clearly shined a light on the obsessive nature of Jed Latkin. I really liked the side interviews with people not associated with Tout who had a love or hate of fantasy baseball. It moved quickly and had some nice surprises.

Lawr Michaels, I like the movie.

Dean Peterson, STATS: As far as the movie goes, I enjoyed it. Showing the fanatic that Jed is makes the rest of us look a little more “normal.” I’m glad they were able to catch Jed getting hit with the ball at Wrigley. I was with him during that time — truly unbelievable a ball hitting him right on the forehead. Couldn’t have made that part up!

Nando Di Fino, The Wall Street Journal (who co-manages Sam Walker’s team): I think there should have been more focus on Jed’s apartment. That project haunted him for an entire season. But outside of that, I thought it was stellar.

2. How different is the league with and without Jed Latkin (the movie’s central character and 2008 AL-only Tout participant) involved?

Siano: Except for my cell not ringing as much I didn’t notice too much of a difference. Either way, I have 11 other people to compete with come Tout, so the fact Jed was or wasn’t there didn’t change my strategy or commitment. The season flies by so fast as it is, so I didn’t have time to stop and notice. No offense, Jed. You know you’re my boy.

Michaels (who sits on the board of the Tout Wars LLC): The league is not as frantic without jed (whom i like). It is more focused on winning, rather than the movie. Note that jed was not asked back for two reasons: 1) the whole deal was offered as a one-year shot, and 2) Tout is for writers and analysts within the industry. Jed is neither of those.

Peterson: The league without Jed is much quieter, and my mailbox (and voicemail box) are not full of trade offers. As Lawr and Ron said in the movie, when drafting a team from scratch, unless there is a big injury, I also see no reason to make a trade within the first couple months of the season.

Di Fino: When they didn’t let him back in to Tout, I grabbed him as a partner in the AARP league with all the founders that I play in. We make better allies than enemies!

Steve Moyer, Baseball Info Solutions: It played pretty much the same. Although it was considered a disgrace to lose to Jed. Not a big deal to lose (winning is a lot of everything goes right luck), but no one wanted to finish behind Jed.


In other Fantasyland news, the folks behind the effort to extend the brand have started an internship program and are also seeking volunteers. Anyone interested can e-mail director Stephen Palgon.


Director Driving Fantasyland as a Brand

Friday, March 26th, 2010

With the Fantasyland movie hitting the Web last Friday, and the 2010 drafts for Tout Wars — the “expert” competition at the center of the tale — coming up this weekend, thought it worthwhile to toss a few questions toward director Stephen Palgon.

Along with providing some insight into the creation of the documentary, Palgon mentioned plans to try to extend the Fantasyland brand to create an ongoing presence on the Web and in the fantasy industry. Here are our questions and his answers.

1. What is your background with fantasy sports?

I have played fantasy sports a bit, but mostly NBA fantasy. I did NFL fantasy in college and some MLB fantasy while I worked at ESPN but recently my focus has been on NBA fantasy.

2. What made you want to make this movie?

Several years ago I read an article about Sam Walker’s book Fantasyland and I found it very interesting and I thought that his approach to fantasy sports helped make the sport come alive and away from the numbers. Sam’s take is really what inspired the film because when I read the book I saw what could be a really dramatic documentary if we found a compelling character and followed them around for a season and they played the game in a similar fashion to Sam and went out and attempted to play fantasy baseball for real.

3. How did the Tout Wars folks respond to your proposal? Did it take any convincing?

I think that there might have been some brief hesitation from the Tout Wars players after Sam’s book. I think that some members of Tout Wars had some negative opinions of their portrayal in the book but after a little bit of conversation and letting them know what our goals were they came on board. I have to say that Ron Shandler has been incredible throughout the process, and since the film has been completed he has been a real champion of the film, which is something we are very grateful about.

4. How did you elicit applications for the “regular-guy” spot? What made you choose Jed Latkin?

The audition or application process was basically an online campaign. We posted on websites, got the word out through people we knew in the fantasy world and once the word got out the applications began pouring in and it was actually through this process that we began to realize even more how compelling this world was. We were hearing stories and learning about people that we never knew existed.

5. Other than funding, what were some particular challenges in making this movie? What went better than you might have expected?

One of the challenges was making sure we were picking the right spots and moments to follow and focus on. Of course you don’t want to miss anything but you can’t be filming 24/7, so we wanted to make sure we were there during the moments that were essential to the film. I think also the hard part is making sure you know which people to be following. It can be especially difficult when the drama is unfolding in front of you. I think one of the things that worked out better than expected was Jed. We really didn’t know what we would get from him. We knew what had a unique personality when we first met him, but we didn’t quite know the extent of it until we got off and running. And of course, having the camera in the right position when he got hit in the head with the ball was a moment I am very grateful for, Jed perhaps not so much.

6. Looking at the finished product, is there anything you wish you had done with the film that maybe didn’t end up fitting?

There are definitely more player scenes that we really liked but we wanted to be careful to not overdo this. I think that there are other very funny moments with Jed where he is simply talking about things that are somewhat mind boggling that I would’ve liked to include. I think that the other thing is that we definitely wish that we could’ve included some of the bigger names who play fantasy whether it be celebrities or politicians, etc but it just didn’t happen.

7. Would you want to play in a league with Jed?

I know that a lot of people look at Jed as the guy they WOULD NOT want in their league, but I think that playing against Jed could be fun. At least for a season. He is going to come at you from all angles and he is going to be the guy that you really want to beat. Jed is not mean spirited at all, he just really loves to play and is obsessed with it, but I don’t think he is out there trying to be a jerk.

8. What goals do you have for the film now that it’s out there? Any future plans relating to fantasy?

We definitely have some big goals related to this film and really view the book and film as just the initial parts of this journey. We are launching the Fantasyland brand which is going to be a website filled with daily video content that is dedicated to the lives of the people who play fantasy sports, the stories, the characters and everything about fantasy sports that isn’t about the numbers. We want to create a video fantasy Web network for this world that is unlike anything that is currently out there.

You can also find info on the Fantasyland Film Facebook and Twitter pages.