Understanding the Relation Between Social Behaviors and Daily Fantasy Sports Risk Behavior

  • Matthew A. TomEmail author
  • Pat M. Williams
  • Timothy C. Edson
  • Debi A. LaPlante
Original Paper


In daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests, participants form a roster of athletes scheduled to perform in a pre-determined list of sporting contests or games. Each participant has the opportunity to win cash prizes, depending on the performance of the athletes on their roster and the performances of the athletes on the other participants’ rosters. Some contests have higher variances than others (i.e., lower percentages of participants winning and higher payouts versus higher percentages of participants winning and lower payouts) and can be considered riskier propositions. DFS operators have mechanisms for interacting with friends on their servers (e.g., referral programs and incentives, friend lists, private contests). To determine whether use of these mechanisms (i.e., social behavior) was associated with preference for higher variance contests (i.e., risk behavior), we analyzed player records (N = 11,130) from a DFS service. We constructed a measure of risk behavior, player risk score, that is based on DFS contests’ entry fees and payout structures. We observed that players referred to the DFS service by a friend and those who had a reciprocal friendship had similar player risk scores. However, those who referred a friend, both generally and among players with reciprocal friendships, were more likely than others to have greater player risk scores, and greater numbers of friend referrals also was associated with higher player risk scores. Although the observed effect sizes were small, the results point to a possible relationship between referring others to play and risk activity. Future research should assess how these small effects interact with other behaviors and motivations associated with DFS play, like playing to escape or playing to earn/win money. It also should examine the temporal relationships between refer-a-friend program participation and risk content choices.


Fantasy sports Gambling Gaming Social behaviors 



The authors extend special thanks to Greg Karamitis, Robert McGeehan, and Jacob Sachs for responding swiftly and thoroughly to our data requests, and to Vanessa Graham, Rhiannon Wiley, John Kleschinsky, and Scarvel Harris, for providing support for this project. The authors would like to thank Pradeep Singh for his help in conducting analyses.

Author’s Contributions

All authors contributed to the concept and design of this study and the writing of this manuscript. PMW, TCE, and MAT contributed to the analyses, had full access to the data used in the study, and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. All authors have approved the final article.


DraftKings, Inc. provided primary support for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors also receive funding from the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR), The Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations via NIH and Indian Health Services (IHS), the Integrated Centre on Addiction Prevention and Treatment of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, which receives funding from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Institutional Review

The authors determined that this study was not human subjects research under the federal guidelines and documented that decision with the Institutional Review Board of the Cambridge Health Alliance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division on AddictionThe Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical SchoolMaldenUSA
  2. 2.Boston UniversityBostonUSA

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