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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 Draft Betting Value Rests Beyond Browns’ No. 1 Overall Pick

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The only certainty on the morning of the 2018 NFL draft is that the Cleveland Browns, with the No. 1 and 4 overall picks, will take a quarterback – which has created a ripple effect on other betting props.

Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold is the -180 favorite to be the No. 1 overall choice in the 2018 NFL draft that takes begins in Arlington, Texas on Thursday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The other players in the No. 1 pick prop include three other quarterbacks, Wyoming’s Josh Allen (+175), Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (+450) and UCLA’s Josh Rosen (+1800), plus Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (+600) and North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb (+4500).

Quarterbacks have been taken No. 1 in 12 of the last 17 drafts and no running back has been the top pick since 1995. Darnold’s price might reflect an expectation that his skillset is most in tune with conventional NFL thinking. If a bettor believes the Browns will buck convention, well, Allen is believed to have better physical tools and there is the Hail Mary option of Mayfield, whose competitiveness and athleticism is offset by being short for a NFL quarterback.

The quarterback-at-No. 1 argument adds values to other props. Barkley (+175) has the lowest price but is still plus money as the No. 2 overall selection on the 2018 NFL draft betting props board. The New York Giants have that pick and general manager Dave Gettleman does not have a history of trading down at the draft. The Giants haven’t indicated a focus on a QB, which seemingly rules out Darnold (+275), Allen (+350) and Rosen (+400).

The New York Jets are a lock to take a quarterback, creating a very tight No. 3 overall prop between Rosen (+140) and Mayfield (+160). The play there depends on what type of risk bettors believe the Jets want to take on: with Mayfield, the only knock is his height (a smidge about 6-foot), while Rosen battled concussions in college.

Between the Browns also holding the No. 4 choice and the Denver Broncos possibly trading down from No. 5, the +225 price on whether one of the first five picks will be traded is a very enticing proposition. The Buffalo Bills are one of the quarterback-hungry teams with two first-round picks they could ante to move up in the draft order, while speculation also has the New England Patriots looking to move up, since Tom Brady presumably will not play forever.

Position props can also be great fun. The over/under on quarterbacks selected in the first round is 5.5. Only once – the famed John Elway-Jim Kelly-Dan Marino draft in 1983 – have six QBs gone in the first round. Tying that record would require both Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph to go in the first round. The over/under on Jackson’s draft slot is 17.5

It is considered a thin year for elite wide receivers, so the -150 under on the 2.5 total seems like the percentage play. Teams have been wary of using first-rounders on running backs in recent years, but the total is only 1.5, making the -220 over a realistic hit since, after Barkley goes, only one team would have to take a chance on a back such as Louisiana State’s Derrius Guice or Georgia’s Sony Michel.

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

 

 

Best ads from Super Bowl LII

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The best Super Bowl ads made us laugh, cry, and audibly wonder how much a trip to Australia would cost.

Here are some of the best ads from Super Bowl LII:

GOAT Ad: Doritos, Mountain Dew collaboration with Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman rapping Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott

Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman in any Super Bowl commercial was going to be epic, but having them RAP (lip sync, obviously) Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott?! That was what Super Bowl commercials are made for.

Leaving on a Jet Plane: Australia Tourism

It’s cold on the East Coast right now and Australia looks nice and warm, so this ad should move Australia to the next spot on your vacation list. The ad referenced a “remake” of ‘Crocodile Dundee’ with Chris Hemsworth and Danny McBride, the incredible Australian wine, and stunning beaches.

Laugh Out Loud: NFL’s Dirty Dancing tribute ad

Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. had the time of their lives during Super Bowl LII, paying tribute to Dirty Dancing’s famous dance routine and acrobatic leap done by Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze.

You are, you’re a Superstar… commercial: Amazon

Amazon brought the star power to their Amazon Echo spot, with Gordon Ramsey, Cardi B, Leslie Jones, Rebel Wilson and Anthony Hopkins, filling in for a voiceless Amazon Alexa.

Get the tissues: Hyundai

Hyundai’s ad where car buyers meeting cancer patients that they helped by purchasing a car hit you right in the feels. It was obvious that every parent was on the edge of tears while watching the videos of patients saying thank you.

If you want to watch all of the Super Bowl ads, check them out here.