During a 30-minute Q&A at the Sports Business Journal’s annual Sports Media & Technology conference Thursday, DraftKings co-founder and CEO Jason Robins spoke openly about how the recent industry-wide ban on daily fantasy employees playing daily fantasy at rival sites could cause a significant challenge for DraftKings going forward.
His logic was simple: allowing employees to play daily fantasy helps DraftKings improve the quality of its product.
“Fantasy sports is a passion for a lot of people, myself included. I love it. A lot of the types of people who want to work at a company like DraftKings are people who are really into playing fantasy sports,” Robins said.
“People who are into the product and who are able to know what it’s all about are going to design better products and better experiences for our customers. It’s harder to do when you’re not actually playing around with the product yourself.”
Now, it’s important to note that Robins did not at any point say that he wished daily fantasy employees could still play daily fantasy, and he said he understood why the ban is necessary.
But his comments nevertheless shed light on one serious challenge daily fantasy sites may face as they grow their businesses and break into different markets around the world. Robins said DraftKings planned to launch in the UK in December, and is extremely interested in bringing the product to other areas in Europe, along with Asia and Australia.
When asked how DraftKings planned to curb this problem, Robins offered one interesting example: the company has started experimenting with internal, company-wide daily fantasy competitions. This way, employees can still play around with the product without having any sort of unfair advantage over the everyday participants.
“We’ve now started establishing cool little fantasy competitions intra-company for the employees that give away interesting prizes,” he said. “We can all play together. We can’t play externally, the way everyone around the industry used to, but if we can make the private games more exciting, that solves the problem.”
Robins didn’t go into detail regarding what “interesting” meant in actual terms, but he did say that his company was prepared to lose employees who preferred playing daily fantasy to working at DraftKings.
“It’s possible that there are some people that are so passionate about [daily fantasy] and it’s so important to them that it’s going to be more important to them to play than it is to work at DraftKings,” Robins said. “It’s possible that we lose some of those people. We haven’t yet, but it’s something we have to be prepared for.”
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Ethan Haskell, a DraftKings employee, had won $350,000 on rival site FanDuel, which led to a media frenzy and calls for regulation in the industry. On Thursday, Robins noted that most employees who played daily fantasy prior to the ban did so for fun and did not thrive in the competitions
“As much as the media would have you believe otherwise, it’s not like the people who were playing [daily fantasy] were raking in a ton of money. It was mostly a hobby and a passion for people. The impact to their compensation overall ito how much money the make is quite minimal,” Robins said.