Nate Nanzer, commissioner of the Overwatch League, tells Heroes Never Die that the integration of a type of gambling called fantasy sports is in the planning stages.
“Wagering is not something that we’re considering,” said Nanzer, referring to the practice of betting that a certain team will win on a certain day. “Fantasy has obviously proven to be something that fans love in traditional sports and are a great driver of engagement. We’re definitely looking into something like that.”
In traditional fantasy sports, participants come together to draft real-world players onto a pretend team. They then track player statistics, competing against other participants over time. The practice has proved controversial, with some states’ attorneys general claiming that it is an illegal form of gambling.
In traditional sports, daily fantasy is dominated by two companies — Fanduel and DraftKings — which control 90 percent of the market. The two companies are in the midst of a potential merger, which raises potential antitrust issues. The merger is currently stalled by the Federal Trade Commission.
It’s estimated that more than 57 million people participate in daily fantasy sports, and traditional sports leagues see virtually none of that revenue. That’s a situation the Overwatch League would like to avoid.
“I think we’ll have more details as the league progresses,” Nanzer said. “I think something that’s important to keep in mind is we’re not setting out to build this league for next year or the year after. Our view is that we’re building a forever league and looking for partners who want to build something long-term with us. Fantasy is something that we definitely have on our long-term roadmap as being part of the league.”
One of the more surprising takeaways from this year’s Game Developers conference in San Francisco was that several major esports team owners feel that the rise of gambling, in the form of daily fantasy sports, is inevitable. NRG Esports team owner Andy Miller confirmed that the topic came up while he was negotiating for a franchise in the Overwatch League.
“A little,” said Miller, who is also co-owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. “This would have to be something that Blizzard Activision wants to do and wants to share with the team owners.”