In the UK most of us can remember back to the early 1990s when Fantasy Football first made an appearance on these shores but we have to go way back to the 1950s in the United Staes to find out where it all started.

The Early Years

One of the first competitions was devised by Wilfred Winkenbach who created a tournament based around single golf tournaments – players would select their particular pros and the lowest scorers would win. Winkenbach expanded this concept to American Football in 1962 and created a league called the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League.

pic of daniel okrent
Daniel Okrent

By this time baseball had also entered the Fantasy arena when William Gamson devised a game based on players’ batting averages and other statistics. Gamson introduced the game to others at the University of Michigan, one of whom was student called Daniel Okrent. Okrent may well have been the person who devised Fantasy Sports competitions as we know them now in which points are gained over the course of a season rather than stats gained at the end of a tournament.

Okrent’s position as a journalist enabled him to spread the idea of Fantasy Sports in the right direction and by the early 1980s the concept had been taken on and discussed by the mainstream media; by the end of the 1980s more than half a million Americans were reckoned to playing some form of Fantasy Baseball. Fantasy (American) Football also gained much popularity during this period.

The Rise Of The Internet

For Fantasy Sports, the internet was a solution looking for a problem and now punters could set up and manage their teams online as well as keep a constant track of related news from a range of new and ultimately influential websites, in particular RotoNews.com and Commissioner.com in the United States.

Fantasy Sports in the United States have barely taken a step backwards since this point and it’s a multi-billion dollar industry in that country alone. Players have been credited with increasing television sports viewing as they watch statistically more hours of sport per week then non-players.

Daily Fantasy Sports

Let’s now jump forward to 2009 and the introduction of a version of Daily Fantasy Sports by FanDuel, the Scottish-based company who saw a gap in the US market, or rather a legal loophole which would allow this type of gameplay when other forms of online gambling had been ruled illegal by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. Draftkings was established in 2012 and now the race was on for the massive rewards awaiting the most popular sites.