Daily fantasy sports are fun, but the industry in the United States is quickly turning into a mess. Sites are being forced out of individual states, class action lawsuits are being filed, and major sites are being investigated for the legality or potential lack thereof. And now one of the two leading DFS sites is projecting a bad look because of an internal policy that has now been made public.
Recently, the New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, ruled that DFS was against New York law and ordered DraftKings and FanDuel to exit the state (in a virtual manner – FanDuel is actually based in New York). The sites fought back, filing a lawsuit against the AG in an attempt to not have to stop serving New York players. FanDuel had to enter various pieces of private information as evidence, one of which was its employee policy for playing daily fantasy sports on competing sites. Deadspin acquired a copy of the policy and posted it on its site. It is quite interesting.
The policy, that employees were asked to sign, starts by delineating its goals, which read like the policy aims to simply cover up any possible problems rather than prevent them:
Goals: These outline what we’re hoping to accomplish by asking you (and other employees) to agree to this policy.
• Limit ability of employees to exploit “inside information” such as the picks of top users, or the win rates of potential opponents.
• Reassure any concerned site users that employees aren’t exploiting inside info.
• Reduce chance of users questioning ability of employees to exploit inside info against them when they play on other sites.
The next section addresses the “Principles” of the policy, that is, why the specific rules were made. Much of it, like the above, has to do with perception rather than outright problem prevention.
After that are the “Risks” involved with not implementing the policies. They are fairly reasonable and not really worth discussing here, but a little of it does look like the company trying to justify a less-than-sound policy.
The “Internal Controls & Guidelines” section only has two bullet points:
• Only discuss our users’ success and lineups where necessary. The less awareness of this information internally, the less chances for exploitation.
• There is an expectation that employees will only look up info such as user lineups or user win rates where needed to do job.
And then there are the “Rules for Employee Play on Other Sites,” which reads like a guide for clandestine foreign agents:
• Never be among the top five players by volume on any one site (based on site leaderboards). Never be among the top ten overall on the RotoGrinders leaderboard. Top players frequently become targets for accusations by other users.
• Never account for more than 2% of entries in any tournament of more than 1,000 entries. Never account for more than 5% of entries in any tournament of more than 100 entries. Players who swamp big tournaments with entries frequently become targets of accusations.
• Don’t be the 2nd person into a head to head contest against the same opponent in more than one contest per day. This rule will greatly limit the ability to exploit information about user performance, and will also limit the likelihood of complaints from users.
• Never use information gained from viewing users’ lineups.
• Seek to avoid playing anyone whose lineups you saw for that time period.
• You must provide FanDuel with a list of your usernames on all sites where you play for real money. We may or may not choose to reveal your employment status and identity to those sites or on other industry sites.
So rather than either forbidding employees to play on other sites entirely (which eventually happened after the “insider trading” scandal which wasn’t really a scandal) or putting in place much more specific, restricting rules, FanDuel basically trusted its employees not to do anything that wasn’t kosher. The company also seemed much more concerned about its image than about not actually doing anything wrong.
This isn’t to say that FanDuel or its employees actually did anything wrong, but it sure doesn’t make for a good look.
In October, I said about PokerStars’ Anniversary Spin & Go promotion, “So yeah, you’re not going to win the million dollars, or anything in the upper prize tiers, for that matter, but it’s there and you will likely get annoyed when somebody else wins it.”
Are you annoyed yet?
In the span of about a month, seven players have won a million dollars in PokerStars Spin & Go’s. One winner surprised me, but a half dozen more is just gross.
October marked the one-year anniversary of PokerStars’ launch of the Spin & Go, its version of the lottery Sit-and-Go. To celebrate, the world’s largest online poker site added two affordable buy-in levels, each with a jackpot of $ 1 million. Here’s a review of the two new options, along with the associated probabilities of hitting the different buy-in multipliers:
Bronze – $ 0.50 Buy-in
2,400,000x buy-in multiplier ($ 1,000,000 first prize) – 3 in 100,000,000
240x – 4,000 in 100,000,000
120x – 8,000 in 100,000,000
25x – 50,000 in 100,000,000
10x – 100,000 in 100,000,000
6x – 7,500,000 in 100,000,000
4x – 17,477,003 in 100,000,000
2x – 74,860,994 in 100,000,000
Silver – $ 5 Buy-in
2,400,000x buy-in multiplier ($ 1,000,000 first prize) – 3 in 10,000,000
240x – 400 in 10,000,000
120x – 800 in 10,000,000
25x – 5,000 in 10,000,000
10x – 10,000 in 10,000,000
6x – 750,000 in 10,000,000
4x – 1,897,703 in 10,000,000
2x – 7,336,094 in 10,000,000
The $ 100 Spin & Go’s also award a $ 1 million top prize, but the prize structure is exactly the same as it normally is. The two above are the ones that are special for the anniversary promo.
As you can see, the chances of nailing the top multiplier and, in turn, winning the three-handed Spin & Go for the jackpot, are essentially zero. Hence, my claim that you won’t win. I mean, I encourage people to go ahead and try if they want to, particularly if they normally play Spin & Go’s, but don’t expect to win.
Except that a bunch of people have won. A dozen players have won a million dollars since Spin & Go’s launched, but seven of those have now come since this promotion started. Those lucky players are:
‘Samara Lúcio’ from Brazil – $ 5 Spin & Go
‘wrawras’ from Brazil – $ 100 Spin & Go
‘barrakuuda4’ from Estonia – $ 100 Spin & Go
‘prophethicks’ from England – $ 5 Spin & Go
‘handbt1’ from Germany – $ 5 Spin & Go
‘ifipushud325’ – from Australia – $ 5 Spin & Go
‘Koovoon’ – from Canada – $ 100 Spin & Go
The Anniversary Spin & Go promotion is scheduled to conclude at the end of this month.
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt told Politico magazine’s contributing editor Jon Ralston that he will sign a letter with other Attorneys General supporting Sheldon Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). Laxalt explained his position on Ralston’s show, “Ralston Live,” which airs on Nevada Public Broadcasting.
When asked to confirm that he is going to sign the letter, Laxalt did just that, saying, “I intend to sign onto the letter. It’s circulating now.”
The letter to which he is referring was spearheaded by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson in October, a petition seeking to gain as many state Attorney General signatures as possible in order to urge the leadership of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to support RAWA. The same thing was done in early 2014 and got a dozen signatures, aside from the originators of the letter.
But one wouldn’t think that the Attorney General of Nevada, the United States’ gambling hub and one of three states to legalize online poker, would want any part of this. Ralston questioned Laxalt about his decision, specifically bringing asking him how he could support a bill that flies in the face of Nevada’s state’s right to make its own choices on gambling. Laxalt’s response:
There’s a couple giant exceptions to this, alright? One is Congress spoke on this issue and had an existing Wire Act, ok? And then Attorney General Holder issued an opinion a few days before Christmas some years ago and changed that landscape. He changed that landscape without gaming companies, without law enforcement, without all the parties that should’ve been involved to make sure that we can keep consumers safe and all this can be done properly. So, I think obviously in this case we’re looking to return it back to what the status quo was, that Congress passed, and, you know, the other thing is obviously gaming is a different animal. You know, you have, you need to know where the sources of money are coming from and you need to make sure you can police this area.
It is naturally assumed that Laxalt, a politician in his own right, is trying to curry favor with billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, but Laxalt told Ralston that he has not spoken with Adelson about RAWA or the petition. In mentioning that Adelson, Steve Wynn, and Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller support RAWA, Laxalt said, “People have been looking at this issue and I think that there’s consensus – obviously, with some exceptions – that we should return back to the status quo and then we put it back to Congress so these guys can figure it out.”
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval was disappointed in Laxalt’s stance on RAWA, saying, “….I am very concerned that anyone representing the state’s legal interests would speak out against current state law in our leading industry. At its core, this is a state’s rights issue and I disagree with the Attorney General that a federal government one-size-fits-all solution is in the best interest of Nevada.”
A British teenager received a minimal punishment for bringing down an online gambling site, though he was also given a stern tongue-lashing from the judge.
In early 2014, Max Whitehouse, then 17-years old, initiated a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against a European online gambling site. The Nottingham teen created problems for the UK-facing site, as his attack caused it to go offline for a short amount of time. The site, which has not been named, estimated that the attack cost it £18,000 in combined lost revenue from the downtime and expenses required to get things back up and running.
Whitehouse is now 19-years old and fortunately for him, Queens Court Judge Michael Stokes only gave him a 12-month suspended sentence on Friday, along with a £200 fine. Whitehouse could have received as much as ten years for the charge of “carrying out an unauthorized and reckless act with intent to impair computer operations,” to which he pleaded guilty.
While what Whitehouse did was wrong and certainly cost the site a chunk of change, Judge Stokes did not believe he was truly trying to do anything malicious and believed the young man when he said he was just trying to see if he could pull off the stunt. It did not take long for authorities to trace the source of the attack (despite DDoS attacks, by nature, being difficult to trace) and it didn’t help that he bragged about it on his mother’s Twitter account.
So ok, fine, we can chalk up Whitehouse’s transgression to being a bored teenager. But law enforcement’s raid on his house uncovered some items that were a bit more disturbing. Whitehouse had been collecting an assortment of weapons including tear gas canisters, eight sets of brass knuckles (does he not realize he has but two hands, or does he have a gang?), and a stun gun disguised as an iPhone.
Judge Stokes told him, in so many words, that he needs to grow up and get a life. “He has been living a virtual life and not a real life. He needed to get out more and play rugby or something,” said the judge, according to local reports.
As to not coming down hard on the defendant for the weaponry, the judge told Whitehouse, “You were, at the relevant time, extremely naive. I am satisfied you had no intention whatsoever of selling or distributing any of those items.”
Distributed Denial of Service attacks are unfortunately not uncommon in the online gambling world. Perhaps the most notable victim has been the U.S.-facing Winning Poker Network (WPN), which has been hit by multiple attacks within the last thirteen months. The attackers targeted WPN whenever the network tried to host its ambitious Million Dollar Sundays, causing tables to freeze, players to get disconnected, and all sorts of lag. Partially because of the DDoS attacks, WPN was stuck paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in overlay for the tournaments.
They say the value of something is whatever someone else is willing to pay for it. All it takes is one person to REALLY want something for the price to skyrocket (well, maybe two people, as only a fool would bid against himself). So when you think of the kitchy dogs playing poker paintings, don’t laugh, because one of them just sold for $ 658,000 at Sotheby’s art auction.
The painting, titled “Poker Game,” was painted in 1894 by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. It is not THE dogs playing poker painting that has become famous in American history – that one, also by Coolidge, is called “A Friend in Need” – but nevertheless, it is considered an important part of American culture and thus has significant value as both art and Americana.
Both “Poker Game” and “A Friend in Need” are part of a series of sixteen oil paintings (“Dogs Playing Poker” series) featuring anthropomorphized dogs commissioned by the Brown & Bigelow cigar company in 1903 for a calendar. They have become synonymous with both humor and poor decorative taste. Nevertheless, because of the unique niche they have found themselves in during the past century, they have become quite valuable pieces of art. “A Bold Bluff” and “Waterloo,” two other paintings in the series, sold as a pair for $ 590,400 in 2005.
Sotheby’s summarizes how Coolidge got started in the dog painting game in on the webpage for the auction:
In the upstate New York town of Antwerp, Coolidge worked, almost simultaneously, as a druggist, painter of street signs and house numbers, and founder of the first newspaper and earliest bank all within the years between 1868 and 1872. It was after a trip to Europe in 1873 that he turned up in Rochester, New York, as the portraitist of dogs whose life-style mirrored the successful middle-class humans of his time. Coolidge’s first customers were cigar companies, who printed copies of his paintings for giveaways. His fortunes rose when he signed a contract with the printers Brown & Bigelow, who turned out hundreds of thousands of copies of his dog-genre subjects as advertising posters, calendars, and prints.
Sotheby’s also quotes an article titled “A Man’s Life” from the February 1973 edition of American Heritage magazine in explaining society’s attraction to Coolidge’s work:
Coolidge’s poker-faced style is still engaging today. His dogs fit with amazing ease into such human male phenomena as the all-night card game, the commuter train, and the ball park. His details of expression, clothing, and furniture are precise. Uncannily, the earnest animals resemble people we all know, causing distinctions of race, breed, and color to vanish and evoking the sentiment on an old Maryland gravestone: MAJOR Born a Dog Died a Gentleman.
The lesson to be learned here is to never throw anything away. That macaroni-on-velvet portrait of Elvis with airbrush finish could be worth something someday.