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FTC seeks to block merger of FanDuel and DraftKings

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BOSTON — Federal regulators are challenging the planned merger of FanDuel and DraftKings, saying the combination of the two largest daily fantasy sports sites would create a company controlling more than 90 percent of the market.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Monday that it will file a complaint – along with the attorneys general of California and the District of Columbia – seeking to temporarily stop the deal, pending an administrative trial scheduled for Nov. 21.

Combining the onetime rivals would “deprive customers of the substantial benefits of direct competition,” Tad Lipsky, acting director of the commission’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement.

DraftKing’s Jason Robins and FanDuel’s Nigel Eccles, the CEOs of the two companies, said in a statement that they’re disappointed by the FTC’s decision and are weighing their options.

Daily fantasy sports contests are online games in which players build rosters of real-life athletes and vie for cash and other prizes based on how those athletes do in actual games. They grew in large part from a 2006 federal law that banned online gambling but created a specific niche for fantasy sports.

The FTC, in announcing the complaint, said it wasn’t convinced that other fantasy sports companies could provide sufficient competition if the merger went through.

It also said consumers were unlikely to view other products, including the traditional, season-long fantasy sports competitions played by millions of Americans each year, as a meaningful substitute for the contests offered by the two companies.

Boston-based DraftKings and New York-based FanDuel agreed to merge in November as the industry they helped pioneer fell under intense regulatory scrutiny.

With the two companies engaged in a costly advertising war, state attorneys general, lawmakers and gambling regulators across the country began to question whether the online contests amounted to illegal sports-betting operations.

At the time the merger was announced, the companies maintained their niche business was just a small part of a larger, multibillion dollar fantasy sports industry in which ESPN, Yahoo and other major corporations have long dominated.

The companies said a merger would help them reduce costs as they lobbied for state laws recognizing their legality and fought off legal challenges in court, as well as help them improve their contests.

Both had raised millions of dollars through investors and sponsorships with prominent teams and sports leagues in a few short years but still weren’t profitable.

But the daily fantasy sports industry has sharply contracted in the past year, despite roughly a dozen states adopting new laws and regulations.

More than two-thirds of daily fantasy sports companies have shuttered, changed focus or joined with competitors, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association has said. That’s left DraftKings and FanDuel as the largest remaining operators.

DraftKings, which was founded in 2012, is the currently the largest in terms of entry fees and revenues. FanDuel, which was founded in Scotland in 2009, is the second largest.

NFL Thanksgiving Day betting guide: Odds, trends for trio of matchups

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Whether the Dallas Cowboys can break both their funk and a trend of failing to cover against sub-.500 teams might hinge largely on the status of one man – left tackle Tyron Smith.

The Cowboys host a pick-’em on Thursday against the Los Angeles Chargers with a 48-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The OddsShark NFL Database notes that the Cowboys are an underwhelming 4-12 against the spread in their last 16 home games against teams with losing records like Los Angeles, so having Smith (back/groin) return from a two-game absence will be paramount against a Chargers team that has one of the NFL’s best pass rushes, led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

The Chargers are 4-6 straight-up and 5-4-1 ATS, but with veteran QB Philip Rivers’ savvy they are good on short weeks, sporting a 4-1 ATS mark in their last five Thursday games. The Cowboys, who are 5-5 both SU and ATS, could impose their will on the Chargers in the rushing phase. Alfred Morris has been a bright spot with Ezekiel Elliott injured, and Dallas leads the NFL in yards per rush while Los Angeles gives up the most yards per rush.

The total has gone over in three of the Chargers’ last four games against the Cowboys. The total has gone over in seven of the Cowboys’ last nine games in the late afternoon.

Earlier on Thursday, the Minnesota Vikings are three-point road favorites against the Detroit Lions, with a 44.5 total.

The Vikings are 8-2 SU and 6-4 ATS, and bettors will have to decide whether to give more weight toward their head-to-head showing against the Lions – 0-3 SU in their last three – or a 6-0 SU streak that began after a Week 4 home loss against Detroit. The favored team is just 3-9 ATS in the last 12 games of this matchup. The Lions, who QB Matthew Stafford has led to a 6-4 SU and 5-4-1 ATS record, have shown a tendency to hit their stride in late November. They are 8-0 SU and ATS in their last eight home games in November.

The total has gone under in seven of the last eight games in this matchup.

And the Washington Redskins are set as 7.5-point favorites against the New York Giants, with a 44.5 total in the primetime matchup on Thursday.

The main question with the Giants and QB Eli Manning, who are 2-8 SU and 4-6 ATS, is whether they maintain the same urgency they had in Week 11 when they upset the Kansas City Chiefs, assuaging the pressure on head coach Ben McAdoo. The form suggests that’s unlikely, as New York is 2-7-1 ATS in its last 10 road games. The Redskins, who are 4-6 both SU and ATS, should rate a good shot at putting up a point total somewhere in the high 20s, since QB Kirk Cousins is playing well and RB Samaje Perrine looks like a ready-made replacement for the injured Chris Thompson.

The total has gone under in eight of the Giants’ last 11 games against the Redskins. Whether that trend holds will come down to the chess match between the Giants offense (30th in scoring) and Redskins defense (31st in scoring defense).

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com

Eagles, Wentz Big Favorites Against Depleted Cowboys on Sunday Night

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Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles go into a road team-dominated rivalry game on Sunday night against a Dallas Cowboys opponent that struggles as a home underdog

The Eagles are listed as 4.5-point road favorites against the Cowboys with a 48-point total for the Week 11 Sunday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The visiting team is 6-2 straight-up in its last eight games in this NFC East matchup and 8-3 against the spread in the last 11. Dallas, which will not have key performers such as RB Ezekiel Elliott (suspension), LT Tryon Smith (groin, back) and LB Sean Lee (hamstring), is also an inauspicious 2-8 SU and 4-4-2 ATS in its last 10 games as the underdog at AT&T Stadium.

The first priority for the Eagles, who are 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS, will be making sure RT Lane Johnson can contain DE Demarcus Lawrence, who already has 11.5 sacks. That’s easier said than done, but the Eagles have myriad rushing and short-passing threats they can use to slow up the Cowboys’ pass rush. Lee often shadows tight ends and running backs. If Philly’s leading receiver, TE Zach Ertz (hamstring, probable) is good to go, then the Eagles should have a well-balanced passing game.

The Cowboys give up a below-average 4.3 yards per rush and DT Maliek Collins (foot) could be missing from the interior of the front seven. Every bit of extra yardage the likes of Jay Ajayi grinds out will help Philadelphia, which is 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in its last six games as a favorite of 5.0 or fewer points, avoid the obvious passing downs where Lawrence can tee off with a speed rush.

The Cowboys, who are 5-4 both SU and ATS, will need their second-year QB Dak Prescott to carry the load with his passing. Leading receiver Dez Bryant (ankle) will likely tough it out, but Philadelphia permits only 6.6 yards per pass (ninth in the NFL) and the pass coverage should get shored up by the return of CB Ronald Darby (ankle), who has been out for a month.

With no Elliott to hit the holes or Smith to open them, it’s hard to see how Dallas’ ground game will get traction against an elite Eagles defensive line fortified by DT Fletcher Cox and DE Brandon Graham. Philly allows only 3.6 yards per rush.

The total has gone over in six of the Eagles’ last eight games, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. The total has gone under in nine of the Cowboys’ last 11 games as an underdog.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.