But the two say that's never been the case. And it certainly isn't now--not after commiserating over beers in hotel bars in the 42 state capitols that don't allow their companies to operate.
After separately contesting false advertising claims brought by the state of New York, and settled in October with each company agreeing to pay $6 million, the two firms have announced their intent to merge. It's the best way to survive mounting legal expenses, not to mention the hundreds of millions they collectively dumped into advertising in 2015. But first they will have to prove that what their companies do--daily fantasy sports contests--is a direct competitor with more traditional fantasy sports platforms, like those of Yahoo and ESPN.
"We spent a lot of time together and realized we share identical visions," Robins says. "We care deeply about advancing fantasy sports, and think that's under threat."
The popularity of fantasy sports earned both companies unicorn valuations last year. Players can enter for an entry fee of up to $10, build teams of professional players and earn cash or other prizes based on team members' performance in the real world.
State attorneys general, on the other hand, proved not to be big fans. Even though the state of New York declared daily fantasy sports legal in August, it was only the eighth state to do so. Other states have argued that the daily fantasy contests, as opposed to the season-long contests held on ESPN or Yahoo, are nothing more than illegal gambling, as the daily games are pay to play.
Pending the approval of the merger, the combination means the end of competition in the daily fantasy sports industry. And therein lies the antitrust rub. The key to a merger approval, says Dustin Hecker, partner at Boston-based law firm Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP, is the distinction between "daily" and traditional fantasy sports. Unless the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice think FanDuel and DraftKings as competing with the likes of Yahoo Fantasy Sports, it could deem the merger anti-competitive. The logic is that if players of daily fantasy sports suddenly find themselves with only one platform--prices could shoot up.
"The FTC and the DOJ have to pick their fights," Hecker says. "They have some priorities they need to honor, but it's possible they might conclude it's really not that big a deal and they have bigger fish to fry." Antitrust rules are designed to protect competition, not competitors, and the companies say a price hike is not going to happen. Afterall, FanDuel and DraftKings say that combined they currently only serve five million of the total 57 million fantasy sports players out there. They say they'll keep prices low in hopes of swaying traditional fantasy players over to their daily contests.