DraftKings and FanDuel insist their decision to join forces will benefit players, but the daily fantasy community is concerned about the merger of its two largest operators and is especially fearful that the sites' commission fees will increase.
The companies announced the agreement to merge Friday morning. Both sites will continue to operate under their existing brands through the 2017 NFL season, and for now players should not expect to see significant changes until the deal is finalized. But players are worried fees will increase to a point where the game may become unbeatable down the road.
DraftKings CEO Jason Robins, who will be the joint company's chief executive officer, said he has heard the players' concerns, but doesn't believe the merger will have an impact on commission fees.
"The commission will absolutely not increase as a result of this merger," said Robins in a Friday call with ESPN. "We always try to balance what's the right commission rate to make the games fun and exciting and make everyone feel like they have a chance to win and also to create a healthy profitable company. And those are the same objectives that will exist post-merger. We're not foolish enough to think that we can raise commission to a level that players will just accept."
Al Zeidenfeld, a high-level daily fantasy player and contributor to ESPN, says he understands the sites' need to raise revenue, but wants to see the commission fees structured differently.
"I'd like to see the service fee or the rake be normalized by buy-in level," said Zeidenfeld, who won a million-dollar NFL tournament this season. "It's tough to beat a game that's got 15 percent rake."
Jason Green, an avid daily fantasy player, said an increase in commission fees is also his biggest concern, but knows the industry has gone through a tough stretch. If bumping up the costs is necessary for the businesses to be viable, he is willing to accept it.
"It's still just fun to have some skin in the game," Green said.
Players were also wondering if there will be any additions or subtractions to the sites' offerings and what would happen if the sites do ultimately combine into one site.
"I know some players are worried about what would happen about aspects of the sites that are not synergetic, mainly FanDuel not offering a number of sports like golf and MMA that DraftKings does offer," said Dan Back, a popular industry voice at community forum RotoGrinders.
FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles said he is exploring whether to broaden the number of sports the site offers, but for now he wants to take a long look at which aspects of each site are the best. For example, FanDuel's football contests include a roster spot for kickers, while DraftKings' include a flex position instead. Eccles says keeping both sites operational through the 2017 football season gives them time to decide.
"There are obviously nuances of the products," said Eccles, who will become the joint company's chairman of the board. "There's a number of people who love the kicker and a number of people who hate it. There's a number of people that love the flex player and an equal number of people who hate it. What I hope we can do is really bring the best of both. Some areas we may want to have both options as we move forward toward a single platform."
With entry limits a part of the state regulations, Back said combining the sites into one is another concern, specifically for high-volume players.
"There is no doubt that the higher-volume players who do this for a living would much prefer them to leave both sites open for business, as it gives them ability to get more money in play each week, day," Back said.