— -- Two major U.S. fantasy sports websites appear to have had their biggest weekend ever, despite controversy.
"I think there was a lot of information out in daily fantasy sports, both good and bad," David Copeland, CEO of SuperLobby.com, an aggregator of daily fantasy sports contests, told ABC News today. "It would appear that most of America would have been exposed to this information to make a decision about whether they want to play daily fantasy sports. It would appear that many people chose to want to play."
An employee of fantasy sports company DraftKings admitted earlier this month to accidentally releasing NFL data before the start of the third week of N.F.L. football games. That same week, the employee won $350,000 at rival fantasy sports website FanDuel.
Social media users accused the employee of "insider trading" and both companies announced last week they were temporarily restricting employees from participating in fantasy sports for money.
But this incident didn't stop more users from participating in fantasy sports competitions on those sites that culminated in this past weekend's NFL games.
DraftKings and FanDuel, the two major fantasy sports websites, earned the most in fees from their guaranteed prize pool competitions with a record number of people entering tournaments for the NFL games on Sunday, according to daily fantasy sports analytics provider SuperLobby.com. There were 7.52 million entries to the two sites' tournaments, which is information made public to entrants, as first reported by Bloomberg, which led to $45.6 million in entry fees.
Copeland of SuperLobby.com, which is based in Scotland, said it was difficult to explain why so many people entered this weekend's tournaments, and whether the record number was related to publicity the sites received in the past week.
The two sites offer daily and weekly games in which users pay an entry fee of 25 cents to $1,000. Users choose players in fantasy teams (actual N.F.L. athletes) and earn points based on how their players perform in real games. The prize money varies and can go as high as $2 million.
Both sites have marketed aggressively, including with TV ads during NFL broadcasts, with the goal that more people will enter their guaranteed prize pool competitions. Guaranteed prize pools, after all, will give winners a specific amount of money, sometimes millions, even if a small number of players enter to play. Having a large, guaranteed prize is "almost a marketing expense," SuperLobby.com’s Copeland explains.
While playing fantasy sports is legal in most of the United States, there are varying restrictions in Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Washington.
DraftKings has been adamant that its employees do not engage in insider trading.
“There has been some confusion regarding a recent piece of data that was inadvertently posted on DraftKings' blog containing information about players and fantasy games," the company said in a statement. "Some reports are mischaracterizing the situation and implying that there was wrongdoing. We want to set the record straight."
The company said it shared information with competitor FanDuel as part of its investigation. DraftKings concluded last week: "The evidence clearly shows that the employee in question did not receive the data on player utilization until 1:40 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 27. Lineups on FanDuel locked at 1:00 p.m. that day, at which point this employee (along with every other person playing in a FanDuel contest) could no longer edit his player selections. This clearly demonstrates that this employee could not possibly have used the information in question to make decisions about his FanDuel lineup.”
Last week, a joint statement from FanDuel, DraftKings and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association said that the companies were temporarily banning employees from playing online fantasy sports for money, as a result of the cheating allegations.
Since then, FanDuel has announced that it is permanently barring its employees from playing on any site’s daily fantasy game for money, and is not allowing access to its site to employees of other fantasy sites.