From Fantasy Football to Daily Fantasy Sports: The Evolution of an Ecosystem


Introduction: Modern Technology & Human Nature

The constant technology breakthroughs as well as the reality of constant connectivity of our time, have chiseled globalization at its finest form.

Work, services, ideas, everyday moments, activities and all sorts of information are available anytime, anywhere via a variety of desktop and mobile devices. However, it is a fact that countries, borders and entire continents will always display cultural and functional differences, based on different history, politics, laws and circumstances.

This is how Europe loves football - which the U.S.A call “soccer” – while the American audience cheers for football teams playing with a prolate spheroid ball.

This is how – mostly the U.K residents – have been training to become the best “Fantasy Football” managers, while the U.S residents have been indulging in “Daily Fantasy Sports” since the early ‘00s.


Fantasy Sports Gaming Origins: Fantasy Football

Wikipedia has two separate entries regarding fantasy football origins:

“Fantasy Sport”, stating that “Winkenbach formed the first reported fantasy football league, called the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL), with eight teams, in Oakland in 1962”.

“Fantasy Football (Association)”: Fantasy football (known as fantasy soccer in the United States) is a game in which participants assemble an imaginary team of real life footballers and score points based on those players' actual statistical performance or their perceived contribution on the field of play. The original game was created in England by Bernie Donnelly on Saturday 14 August 1971 and is still going strong 45 years later. Fantasy football has evolved in recent years from a simple recreational activity into a significant business due to exposure via the internet.

This “exposure via the internet”, was what ultimately united the Fantasy Sports concepts from both sides of the Pond and turned Daily Fantasy Sports to a vastly popular pastime among internet users and a highly-sought addition within the iGaming industry.


Fantasy Sports Evolution: A U.S & Europe Synergy

FanDuel was the company that introduced Daily Fantasy Sports to the American audience back in 2009. A variety of sports, numerous contests, easy participation and a monetized game with attractive cash prizes, were the elements that made Daily Fantasy Sports almost an overnight success.

DraftKings soon followed suit and both companies became startup giants, raising massive funding rounds and establishing investing relationships with companies like Comcast Ventures, the MLB, The Raine Group, GGV Capital, and Accomplice.

DraftKings and FanDuel moved the game to the Marketing field with TV ads featuring stars of Edward Norton’s calibre in colossal campaigns and soon became household names.

In the meantime, U.K and European operators started rolling out fantasy football platforms, similar to the Official Fantasy Premier League (FPL), with monetized gameplay and prizes, like their American cousins.

The official online and season-long Fantasy Premier League, was launched in the early ‘00s and soon became an institution among League fans and fantasy football enthusiasts. Its popularity enabled new fantasy operators to enter the Fantasy scene with confidence, incorporating FPL elements that were already familiar to the audience of their pay-to-play contests.

Gradually, stakes and cash prizes became higher, contest duration became shorter, spanning from weekly to daily, while new companies emerged with more Daily Fantasy offerings.

The FPL community and its dedicated blogs began to educate season-long fantasy football players and football fans on the new format, while AdWords and Social Media advertising campaigns started to feature Daily Fantasy Sports platforms and “Guaranteed Pots”: the road was now paved for the U.S giants to arrive in Europe and “play ball” against the local fantasy operators.


Fast-forward to the present

The popularity of Fantasy Sports is backed by numbers:

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), in 2017, 59.3 million people were playing Fantasy Sports in the USA and Canada.

The estimated fantasy sports player base in the U.K is about 8-10 million, while the amount of players of the FPL for the 2017-18 season exceeds 8 million.

The Italian audience follows a similar growth pattern, with an estimated 8 million player base for “Fantaclacio”.

Consumer-facing Fantasy gaming platforms have gained steady audience numbers and most operators have added various sports to their offering.

The growth of Fantasy Sports brought them to the business stage, where iGaming companies and operators began to actively seek fantasy gaming solutions for their product suites.

The valuable B2C experience of the recent past, resulted to the foundation of white label solutions companies, offering a variety of fantasy sports products for the contemporary gambling scene.

Fantasy Sports have grown into a fully-fledged industry with a fun, engaging and diverse product that can be used as a powerful Marketing tool on multiple levels. This makes fantasy sports games the next must-have feature for every modern operator and an iGaming essential, alongside traditional betting and gaming products.


Fantasy Sports Interactive (FSI) has everything you need to create an engaging, competitive and fully licensed iGaming product that fits your operational model like a glove.

  • Are you an iGaming operator interested in games of skill and fantasy sports betting?
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