For years, daily fantasy sports (DFS) have been popular in Connecticut despite never having been formally legalized in the state.
That said, there have also never been any laws specifically prohibiting fantasy sports in Connecticut. So many DFS operators continue to invite individuals from the state to participate in their contests.
In 2017, lawmakers did pass legislation authorizing fantasy sports. Dannel Malloy, then the state governor, even signed the legislation as part of that year’s budget bill. However, the state’s Attorney General at the time, George Jepsen, had earlier shared an opinion that authorizing DFS would require updating the state’s gaming compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes.
As those compacts never were amended, DFS continued to exist in a legal “gray area” in the state.
Four years later, however, both lawmakers and the tribes worked toward the legalization of sports betting in Connecticut. Part of the process was formally legalizing fantasy sports. This time around, not only did lawmakers pass bills but also amended tribal-state compacts. In fact, anticipating the legalization of both sports betting and DFS in the state, the Manshantucket Pequot, which operates Foxwoods Resort Casino, partnered with DFS giant and sports betting operator DraftKings.
Here is an overview of the status of daily fantasy sports in Connecticut covering what sites and games are available and discussing the past and future of DFS in Connecticut.
Fantasy sports in America started decades ago as fan-driven season-long contests.
For example, just before opening day Major League Baseball, participants would “draft” players from different teams to form their own “fantasy” team. Then, as the season played out, the statistical performances of each team’s players would be calculated to create a distinct score for each fantasy team. The fantasy team ending the season with the highest score would win the fantasy league’s title.
Daily fantasy sports employ a similar concept. But rather than have fantasy teams compete over a long season, they do so on a daily basis. Before a given day’s schedule of games, participants build their lineups composed of players from different teams. When the last game ends that day, the contest is over and the team with the highest score wins.
Fantasy contests based on MLB, NBA, and NHL games are truly “daily” in that they usually involve all the games played on a given day. For the NFL, the contests sometimes cover all games in a given week (which take place over multiple days), although they can be daily as well (e.g., “Sunday only”).
People still play season-long fantasy sports, but DFS has become much more popular. Some DFS contests on big sites can draw thousands or even hundreds of thousands of entries, creating enormous prize pools even when the cost to play is small.
Currently, DraftKings and FanDuel dominate the DFS market, although many who play DFS enter contests on smaller sites like Yahoo Fantasy Sports and FantasyDraft.
Connecticut has not technically legalized daily fantasy sports. However, DFS is not specifically against the law either. Thus, DFS sites accept contestants from Connecticut much as they accept contestants from other states where fantasy sports have neither been formally legalized nor prohibited.
In October 2017, then-Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bipartisan budget bill that included provisions to legalize and regulate DFS in the state. Those provisions included imposing a registration fee on operators, assessing a revenue tax, and giving regulatory oversight to the Commissioner of Consumer Protection.
In addition, the DFS-related provisions confirmed an opinion issued by then-Attorney General George Jepsen that any legislation authorizing fantasy sports would have to take into account existing tribal-state gaming compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan. To address that need, the bill’s provisions excluded DFS from the definition of “gambling.” The legislation made other specifications as well in order to avoid violating the current compacts.
That said, the state and its tribes still needed to amend their compacts to reflect the new state of affairs allowing fantasy sports. That in fact never happened, however. As a result, all of the provisions to legalize and regulate DFS in Connecticut were never put into place.
In 2021, lawmakers moved forward to legalize sports betting in CT, with DFS again being included in the newly proposed bills. This time, the tribal compacts were amended, both to allow the tribes to offer DFS on their lands and to permit non-tribal operators to obtain licenses to offer DFS throughout the state, with regulations for fantasy sports coming at a future date.
Given the fact that full passage and implementation of the new sports betting law would at least take the rest of the year, some feared DFS sites like DraftKings, FanDuel, and others would have to pull out of Connecticut during the interim period.
However, according to Connecticut Rep. Maria Horn, who chairs the House Public Safety and Security Committee that handles gaming issues, such fears are unfounded. As Horn explained, the sites would continue to serve Connecticut customers during the intervening months when DFS would “remain in murky legal territory.”
As noted, there is no regulation of fantasy sports in Connecticut. This means no sites are licensed by state regulators to operate.
That said, several DFS sites do accept players from Connecticut, including:
Industry giants DraftKings and FanDuel both invite people from Connecticut to enter their DFS contests. Those two sites together cover more than 90% of daily fantasy sports wagering at present. Indeed, many people only think DraftKings and FanDuel when they think of fantasy sports, given how much they both advertise and together dominate the market.
Among other DFS options in Connecticut, though, both Yahoo Fantasy Sports and FantasyDraft are well-known.
Generally speaking, for “gray area” states like Connecticut that have neither legalized nor prohibited DFS, most fantasy sites follow the lead of DraftKings and FanDuel. In other words, if those two major sites are offering contests in the state, other sites will, too.
The transition from season-long fantasy contests to daily fantasy sports has made DFS feel a lot more like traditional sports betting.
After all, you can set your DFS lineup and place your wager just before the games start, then know at the end of the night whether or not you have won. That experience is a lot like betting on the outcome of a single game and knowing as soon as it ends if you’re a winner.
Even so, there are significant differences between DFS and regular sports betting.
When betting on sports in the traditional way, bettors often wager on a team to win outright or by a certain point spread. Therefore, the result of the game directly affects whether or not the bet wins or loses. If you make a moneyline wager on the New England Patriots to beat the New York Jets, for example, the outcome of the game determines whether your bet is a winner or a loser.
With DFS, who wins and loses games doesn’t matter. Rather, the statistical performance of the players you’ve chosen to fill your lineups determines how well you do.
Let’s say you select Pats running back Damien Harris and receiver Nelson Agholor for your DFS team, and New England crushes the Jets 35-3. That score doesn’t matter. Rather, it is how many yards and/or touchdowns Harris and Agholor accumulated during the game that determines victory.
When it comes to traditional sports wagering, DFS does share some similarities with proposition bets on individual players. However, with prop bets, you are usually betting on how a single player does, not on how a group of them perform as in DFS.
The rules for daily fantasy sports disallow contestants from filling a DFS lineup with players from one team only. That is to say, you can’t have a DFS lineup entirely filled with New England Patriots. You have to select players from at least two teams to create your lineup. That’s where the name “fantasy” comes from, since the lineup you create is invented or a “fantasy.”
That’s the big difference between traditional sports betting and DFS: With regular sports betting you bet on real teams, whereas in DFS you bet on fantasy (or not real) teams.
There are many different kinds of DFS contests available, although all of them involve building lineups with players from multiple teams. Also, regardless of the type of fantasy contest, all of them are scored according to the statistical performances of the individual players who comprise the contestant’s team.
In most cases, players are assigned a certain value (expressed as US dollars) according to how well they are expected to perform. The DFS contestant is then given a “salary cap” and must assemble a roster without going over that limit. The salary cap means you can’t load your team with all of the top players, but instead have to be selective and match a couple of stars with other less-marquee names.
There are DFS contests for all team sports and many individual sports, too. Entry fees can range from freerolls and $0.25 up to those costing $10,000 to enter. Rules, structures, and payouts vary depending on the contest.
Popular DFS contests found in Connecticut and elsewhere include:
Guaranteed Prize Pools are contests that offer a guaranteed minimum prize pool regardless of how many enter. Usually, the top 10-20% of finishers split the prize money. The payouts are often structured a lot like a poker tournament, with the payouts starting with small “min-cashes” (usually no more than twice the entry fee) and gradually increasing to the largest prizes for the top finishers.
Like poker tournaments, the prizes in GPPs can sometimes be quite significant with a first-place prize being hundreds of times the buy-in.
In DFS, cash games don’t offer graduated payouts like GPPs do. Rather, the top finishers all receive the same prize. Also, while GPPs are guaranteed to run no matter how many contestants enter, cash games only run if they attract the required number of entries (e.g., a 50-entry cash game won’t run if there are only 35 entries).
Popular varieties of DFS cash games include:
Showdown contests focus on a single game rather than a whole slate of games. They still require contestants to choose players from multiple teams, which in this case means selecting at least one player from each of the two teams involved. Showdowns can be played as GPPs or cash games.
Tier-based contests divert from the salary cap model. Instead, a select group of players is divided among different tiers (“Tier 1,” “Tier 2,” etc.), and contestants pick one player from each tier to form their team. Tier-based contests also come either as GPPs or cash games.
There are a host of other formats and types of DFS contests. Some are multi-entry, others single-entry. Many larger contests feature satellites and qualifiers through which contestants can win entries into the larger ones. There are “steps” contests that work like satellites insofar as contestants can win their way into successively larger contests with each stage. There are even “in-game” DFS contests that share affinities with live betting.
FanDuel first launched in 2009, followed by DraftKings in 2012. Despite there being no explicit legislation authorizing fantasy sports in Connecticut, both sites allowed those in CT to participate from the start. Other fantasy sports sites later followed suit.
In October 2015, a scandal involving DFS site employees playing (and winning) contests earned the attention of lawmakers in Congress. One of them, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, implored the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission to investigate the sites for potentially fraudulent activities.
While such worries changed the way DFS sites conducted their business, they didn’t prevent the sites from continuing to operate in Connecticut and other states where there were no laws prohibiting fantasy sports.
In 2016, lawmakers in both the Connecticut House and Senate introduced bills that would specifically legalize fantasy sports in the state. However, neither of these bills made it to a vote. In 2017, DFS legislation was reintroduced. This time, it was passed by both chambers and included in that year’s state budget bill signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy.
However, in order for fantasy sports to become legal, the state’s two federally recognized tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan, also had to agree to allow it. That meant amending the tribal-state gaming compacts. Such amendments never transpired, and therefore fantasy sports did not become explicitly legal in the state.
In May 2018, a US Supreme Court ruling lifted the federal prohibition on states legalizing and regulating sports betting. Connecticut began exploring the possibility, and by 2021 had created legislation to legalize it while also successfully renegotiating compacts with the tribes. The new legislation additionally would legalize fantasy sports, permitting both the tribes and other operators to obtain licenses to offer fantasy sports.