If you can’t beat ‘em, bitcoin ‘em.
This weekend, fantasy sports fans and cryptocurrency fanatics alike will have a chance to celebrate the run-up to the Super Bowl by participating in history’s first ever Bitcoin Bowl, care of fantasy sports betting site FanDuel.
“We consider ourselves innovators in sports entertainment and introducing new ways to play fantasy sports," FanDuel’s vice president of communications, Justine Sacco, told Karen Webster in a recent chat. "And the fact that we have already done that for money really lends itself to exploring new types of prizes."
That exploration, Sacco told Webster, led FanDuel to bitcoin -- which (surprise, surprise) was getting a surprising amount of buzz and generating a lot of interest among FanDuel’s current user base. And the bigger the bitcoin trend has grown this year, Sacco noted, the more interest that Sacco and FanDuel took in meeting that enthusiasm on the digital fantasy sports battlefield.
And that enthusiasm, she noted, coincided nicely with an opportunity for FanDuel to reengage its user base at this time of year.
“This is a lot of the natural arc of how [fantasy sports] goes,” Sacco explained. “When the season first starts, the user base grows as the season progresses. But toward the end, we naturally tend to see that start to wind down.”
The reason is simple: If a player's favorite team is in the playoffs, a user is more likely to want to follow the team than play in a fantasy league. Naturally, Sacco said, as the season wears on, favorite players get injured, which creates a bit more attrition.
Offering the bitcoin-based contest, she told Webster, both allows the site to draw new interest from cryptocurrency fans, and also engages their current fans who have been talking up bitcoin all season.
How It Works
The Bitcoin Bowl is actually two different events under a single heading. The first competition has a one-time entry where the winner gets one whole bitcoin. The second is a multi-entry contest for $3 an entry, which offers a tiered payout structure: first place will get two bitcoin, second place will get .5 of a bitcoin, and third and fourth place will get .25 bitcoin each.
The $3 entry fee allows the player to access an interesting investment, Sacco explained. Players will compete for the potential of the upside. One winners get their bitcoin, they can either hold them or fold them, as they say. Either way, Sacco said, for a three-buck investment, fans can roll the dice and get all of the financial potential and bragging rights that it offers.
FanDuel bought their currency with a digital wallet (we hope at one of its lows), and will transfer it to the winner directly once the contest is over. The winner who collects the bitcoin (or their piece of it) does so at whatever value the coin holds on the day it is awarded.
Staying Above Board
FanDuel, Sacco noted, is in some ways ideally situated to be the first firm to offer bitcoin as a prize in a consumer contest because of the highly regulated environment in which it operates.
“We work in a highly regulated environment where we have to know our customers – and that they are who they say they are, and that they are the right age and eligible to use our product, adding that legal, government relations and marketing all worked together to create the competition," she said.
The Bitcoin Bowl is open for entry in both of its forms until the games start tomorrow, Jan. 6, at which point there will no additional opportunity to participate. Sacco said that so far, participation is strong and that interest has been encouraging, particularly for the playoffs, when interest normally wanes.
For now, she noted, bitcoin is a limited-time offering on the platform, tied only to this promotion. But what if it continues to perform strongly?
“We are open to exploring other options and ways to go deeper,” Sacco offered.
For now, FanDuel is focused on this promotion and making it through this playoff season – and, of course, it's difficult to make long-term bitcoin plans when the cryptocurrency's future is so mysterious.
But, if it generates enough late-season interest and the price stays solid enough to make it a prize, it will be interesting to see what FanDuel’s offering will look like next fall when the regular season swings back into action.
Who knows what bitcoin’s value could be by then.