Kevin Roth is a meteorologist, and for the most part, his résumé looks like you might imagine it: He has a master’s degree in meteorology, got his start at small-market television stations, and worked his way up to a more prominent perch in Dallas/Fort Worth — the fifth-largest media market in the country. But these days, his forecasts sound a little bit different.
“It’s not that it’s going to be storming or rainy or all that terrible, but we should see about a 15 mph sustained wind, with gusts up to 20,” he tells the audience before diverging from a typical weatherman’s shtick. “This is borderline. I’m more worried if the sustained winds are 20.”
He explains: “I’ve seen about a 10 percent drop in passing yards in similar-weather games. So it is not ideal, but we’re really only talking about a couple really deep throws or a couple really long field goals that are going to be impacted by the weather.” This is all about the Minnesota Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers; it’s not your typical weather forecast.
Despite his traditional background, Roth is currently the chief meteorologist for, a website serving the daily fantasy sports (DFS) community. On this particular day in early January, just before our phone conversation, Roth is sharing his at-the-moment forecast and analysis for the CBS Sports podcast Fantasy Football Today. The NFL’s divisional playoff games commence that weekend, and fantasy sports fanatics need to know the most current weather forecast in Green Bay, Wisconsin, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Kansas City, Missouri, where the weekend’s four games would be played.
If you’ve never heard of DFS, you’ve probably heard of DraftKings and FanDuel, its two main operators. Users draft fantasy teams to play in limited game “slates” (e.g., one week of NFL action, one night of MLB). In DFS, your teams are driven by granular details like player matchups, injuries, stadium, and certainly weather.
While he may be one of only a few working in this space, Roth isn’t alone in serving this community. The popularization of fantasy sports, the emergence of DFS, and the recent legalization of sports betting have ushered in a new era of sports fandom where individual player performance is just as exciting as watching your hometown team win. Beyond the companies that fuel the fantasy world — ESPN and Yahoo, DraftKings and FanDuel — a coterie of other entities, from niche analysis websites to merch stores to sports bars hosting live contests, have popped up to cater to fans and cash in on this growing market.
Though it is still an emerging industry, according to the American Gaming Association legal sports betting has already seen more than $17 billion in wagers and $1.2 billion in revenue — in just 14 states where sports betting is legal and data is available — since the Supreme Court reversed a decades-long federal ban in June 2018. But before sports betting got approval, DFS went through its own battle for legal recognition. Currently, some form of DFS is legal and operational in 43 states and the District of Columbia. Seven states — Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington — still consider DFS illegal sports gambling.
After a high-profile battle with former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over deceptive marketing practices, DraftKings and FanDuel settled, and New York soon after passed legislation to explicitly legalize it. In a December presentation to investors, DraftKings reported $213 million in revenue in 2019 with 60 percent of the market share, indicating the DFS industry brought in more than $350 million in revenue last year.
THE DFS INDUSTRY BROUGHT IN MORE THAN $350 MILLION IN REVENUE LAST YEAR
Before 2018, when the Court ruled that states possessed the authority to legalize sports betting, Nevada was the only state that offered it legally. Since then, 19 additional states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting, with sportsbooks either having started taking bets or planning to do so soon. ESPN report that 24 more states are “moving toward” legalization.
Despite being separate products, regulated separately, the user base for all three games — traditional fantasy, DFS, and sports betting — is similar. A 2018 Ipsos study, commissioned by the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, found that “79% of fantasy sports players who are not current sports wagerers say they will likely participate in sports betting once legalized in their state.” So it makes sense that many of the DFS operators have gotten into sports betting too. DraftKings and FanDuel both operate sportsbooks separate from their fantasy offerings.
“WE’RE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO A FULLY MATURE MARKET”
Dustin Gouker never thought sports betting legalization looked “particularly imminent” until it happened, but always saw DFS as a “placeholder” for sports betting. Legalization “might have happened either way, but I think everybody got a little more comfortable with it — no matter what you think of DFS, it’s a form of having money on the outcome of a game,” Gouker, head of content for LegalSportsReport and a network of related websites, tells me. That involves everyone from leagues and teams to media companies, politicians, lobbyists, and users. “I think there still would’ve been a pretty decent groundswell without it because I think there’s a pent-up demand for sports betting, but everyone got more comfortable with it a little bit more quickly because of daily fantasy.”
Gouker says he thinks the legal progress and economic growth in the past two years is “astounding,” but there’s a lot of room for the industry to grow, he says. “Even though we have all these states, we’re not even close to a fully mature market.”