Where and how to enjoy legal daily fantasy sports contests in Indiana.
In many states, the legal status of daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests is unclear. Indiana is a notable exception. A bill legalizing and regulating online DFS sites was signed into law in March 2016, with regulation starting July 1 of that year.
DFS contests are a relatively recent phenomenon that has filled the gap left by the lack of legal sports betting.
Daily fantasy sports contests are short duration picks games, which mimic the seasonlong contests enjoyed in offices and families for generations. Pick the best team under a salary cap, and you can win real money.
On this page, we cover everything you need to know about daily fantasy sports contests in Indiana.
We cover the way these games work and follow with the legal setup in the Hoosier State. After that, we look at the biggest DFS sites. Finally, we cover the contests, strategy and the effect legal online sports betting is likely to have on DFS.
What is DFS?
For those new to daily fantasy sports, here is an explanation.
All players are given a salary cap and pick individual players in major sports leagues. The cap prevents you from merely picking the best players, creating additional strategy constraints.
After the game(s) complete, your lineup is assessed on performance. Objective stats for each player show who won and prize funds are distributed. How the individual contest rules determine many winners, how much they get and the length of each contest.
Leagues include the NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB, and often college leagues and other sports. The most common duration is a single day or week, though longer contests are possible.
You can set up a small league with friends or colleagues or you can join nationwide contests with massive prize pools and thousands of participants. Alternatives include head-to-head contests and 50/50 contests, where half of the players double their stake.
You can buy-in for as little as a quarter, or enter the pro DFS pools with buy-ins at $1,000.
Is DFS legal in Indiana?
You’ll find significant differences in the approach to DFS across different states.
Many states ban these contests completely, including Arizona, Alabama, Hawaii and Washington state. Other states, e.g., Indiana, have legislation that covers these contests explicitly. Most states live in some legal limbo, allowing DFS to continue though not making this explicitly legal.
For Indiana, bill 339 was signed into law by then-governor Mike Pence on March 24, 2016. As of July 1, the regulation of DFS contests was placed under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Gaming Control Board.
Licensing fees and taxes were introduced, along with responsible gaming rules and a requirement for a yearly third-party audit.
Players and the industry alike widely praised this development. Players were no longer in doubt that these popular games were legal to play. The industry welcomed the practical approach that the Indiana Legislature took in its regulatory efforts.
Since then, bill H 1015 has legalized online sports betting. With FanDuel – and DraftKings – branded sportsbooks operating in New Jersey and soon in Pennsylvania, it will be interesting to see how the DFS site operators approach operating in Indiana.
DFS sites: DraftKings, FanDuel and everyone else
DFS contests are similar to poker rooms in that bigger player pools create a positive feedback loop.
With aggressive marketing and big budgets, two brands, DraftKings and FanDuel, have managed to grab a 90%+ market share. This enables them to offer bigger prizes, more contests and better promos than the competition, consolidating their lead.
With these two sites owning so much of the DFS market, innovative new sites and apps are starting to innovate. New angles on the old contests, such contests involving parlays, are beginning to appear.
Below is an overview of the big two DFS sites, plus some likely future contenders.
This Boston-based site started in 2012 and has grown to dominate the DFS scene in both the US and Canada.
The number of contests covering major and college leagues is bigger than at any other site. You can deposit with regular credit cards or PayPal.
New players who sign up at DraftKings here get $20 free on their first deposit. Meanwhile, new and existing DFS players get a deposit match up to $500. Regular promos and a loyalty scheme system keep players’ bankrolls topped up.
You can play at DraftKings either through its sports betting app (for both Apple and Android devices) or via its website. The website will automatically adjust the display to match your device’s screen.
The main contests are divided into leagues, head-to-head and 50/50 games. There are also qualifiers, which let you win entry into bigger prize contests either directly or using a “steps” structure. Many contests have guaranteed prize pools. These pay the stated amount even if the sum of player entries doesn’t meet the target.
While the major sports are the biggest draw, you can play DFS contests on many other events. These include golf, soccer, motorsports, esports and MMA.
This site started in New Jersey in 2007. The FanDuel platform does not have as many minor sports options as DraftKings, though there are plenty of extras for experienced DFS players.
New players that sign up for FanDuel DFS via PlayIndiana will receive $5 in bonus money instantly and an extra $5 on their first deposit.
This is the tip of the iceberg for promotions with a player’s club supplying extras. There are FanDuel “training camps” to show you how the contests work.
You can access FanDuel via its apps or the website. Indiana doesn’t restrict deposits and withdrawals; you can use credit or debit cards or PayPal.
One feature that makes this site stand out is the huge guaranteed prizes for contests. While these are competitive, the rewards are certainly there if your picks come through. You can enter head-to-head and 50/50 contests. FanDuel uses indicators to show how many experienced players have entered (giving you an idea of how strong is the competition).
Sports include all the major leagues: NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. You can also enter contests based on college leagues, soccer or golf.
What contests can I play at DFS sites?
There are a lot of formats for DFS games. The mainstay are the leagues, which are multiplayer contests. You’ll find the sport, rules and payouts vary. Head-to-head contests are individual challenges where the winner takes the prize.
Here is an overview of the DFS game variations:
- GPP games: You’ll find many leagues with guaranteed prize pools (GPP). The big advantage of these is that they pay the stated amount, even if the entries don’t meet the target. Of course, the bigger the prize, the more players it attracts. These cover all of the sports available by each DFS site.
- Leagues and contests: Any player can create a league or one-off contest, which can be public or private (by invitation only) for friends or colleagues. The creator then determines the sport, salary cap rules, prize amounts and how the prize money will be split. Leagues can have contests which repeat, for example, weekly contests for a season.
- Head-to-head: This format pits your picking skills against one other person. There are thousands of opportunities to play on matchdays. FanDuel uses a matrix, where you can enter a contest and get pitted against several opponents in multiple head-to-head matches.
- Qualifier contests: These take on different formats, though the objective is the same. You enter a picks contest for a small stake, and win entry into a bigger buy-in contest. DraftKings offers a “steps” model, which involves qualifiers in several tiers.
- 50/50 games: This is a lower variance DFS format. Half of the field wins double their entry fee, while the other half gets nothing. While it can be difficult to win the bigger contests, here you only need to get into the top half to win a prize.
- Multipliers: These games take the 50/50 contest idea and use it to offer 3x or bigger entry fee multipliers for those who hit the top tiers with their picks.
Daily fantasy sports strategy tips
There are plenty of amateur sports fans and recreational players at DFS sites. There are also pros that make their living by out picking the competition.
At the smaller stakes, you’ll have a genuine shot at making money. As you move up, you’ll need to take making your selections and picking the right games more seriously.
5 DFS tips for profitability
With so many sports to choose from and game variations, many suggestions for DFS players involve who to pick for your lineups.
These 5 tips are general and will help you avoid common mistakes:
- Don’t leave salary gaps: As a general rule of thumb, salary levels given to individual players are a good reflection of their value. If you are consistently picking lineups that leave you short of the cap for your contest, you are probably not playing optimally. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to spot situations where salary gaps can be ok. To begin with, try to keep your gaps as small as possible.
- Take advantage of beginner contests: Many games are for beginners only. You’ll find opponents at the same level as you in those games – not the experienced players. Taking advantage of this goes hand in hand with taking advantage of promotions and bonus offers.
- Multiple lineups: While a single lineup can hit it big for you, many players prefer to spread the risk. Making smaller changes to your line-ups and entering multiple contests, each for part of the stake you would have bet on the single line-up, is a great method for spreading your risk. You will also find this a quicker route to finding out what works, and which type of selections fall short.
- Bankroll management: I’m sure you will already have heard the adage ‘never gamble with money you can’t afford to lose’. By employing bankroll management principles, you can not only avoid going broke – you can put yourself in a better position to become a profitable bettor.
- Game and contest selection: As a new player, you’ll want to check out all the different ways to enter contests and often a few different sports, too. The game selection goes further than this. You can balance the variance levels of different formats. For example, that big GPP (guaranteed prize pool) contest might be popular, though only a few players will win. Balancing this with some 3x or 50/50 contests will see your overall risk reduced. This, in turn, will put you in a better position to come back for future contests, and another shot at the big money.
How will legal online sports betting in Indiana affect DFS games?
Sports betting was made legal with the signing of bill H 1015 by Gov. Eric Coombs on May 8. When the first wave of sites come online, FanDuel and DraftKings could well be among them.
With regular moneyline, totals, spreads and parlay bets available, it is possible that interest in the DFS contests could be reduced. I think the opposite could also be true.
There will be a lot of publicity about the new sportsbooks in Indiana, covering both live and online betting. This could well lead to a surge in interest. With fantasy picks being familiar (at least in seasonlong social format) to many players, the number of sign-ups could increase.
Wrapping up: DFS in Indiana
In 2016, Indiana legalized daily fantasy sports contests for real money. It’s important to know that DFS winnings, like all gambling winnings, are taxable.
Two significant websites offer DFS throughout the US and Canada. They have welcomed the clarity that this regulation bought.
DFS contests took an old formula and adapted it for daily and weekly contests for real money. These contests are available in one-to-one and tournament formats.
Individual players can create leagues or one-off contests, making them public or private. DFS has had considerable success in Indiana and elsewhere, with two sites – DraftKings and FanDuel – coming to dominate the scene.
It remains to be seen whether legal sports betting sites in the Hoosier State will affect the number of players enjoying DFS. While we wait for Indiana online sportsbooks to launch, those contests are a great way to bet on your favorite leagues.