Mississippians can once again play fantasy sports for money.
FantasyDraft.com has become the first to qualify to offer the games under a law passed earlier this year by the Legislature and signed earlier this month by Gov. Phil Bryant.
"It's good to be back," said Steve Krombolz, COO and co-founder of what he calls a mid-tier fantasy game. "The big two are giant. Then there is Yahoo and FantasyDraft."
Tonight's biggest game has a total prize of $15,000. There are over $20,000 worth of prizes in all the games, he said.
Krumbolz said they had hundreds of players in Mississippi before an attorney general's opinion shut down the games in the state. Players are likely to see Saints quarterback Drew Brees, one of several pros that Krumbolz said has endorsed the games hosted by the Charlotte-based company.
State Sen. Sean Tindell, sponsor of the bill that legalized the online sites that specialize in fantasy sports, where players build virtual teams by "drafting" players of a professional sport to compete for cash prizes, said the Gaming Commission is reviewing applications from all the big names in fantasy sports, such as DraftKings and FanDuel. If the company is based outside Mississippi, it also must register with the Secretary of State's Office, he said.
"They're just waiting to get their registration papers approved," he said.
Tindell came up with the bill in response to the opinion last year that said such fantasy sports violated the state's gambling laws. The bill essentially legalized the games as soon as the governor signed it earlier this month. But it also requires the companies to register with the state, hence the delay.
Tindell said Mississippi's casinos have been generally receptive because a provision in the law allows them exclusively to offer the games via kiosks. The only other ways to play are on a home computer or mobile device.
"If it's offered in a commercial establishment, it would have to be in a casino," he said.
The major sites all offer similar games. Players choose a game and pay a fee, ranging from $1 to several thousand dollars, to enter.
Then they pick their teams. In a Major League Baseball game, for example, players all get the same amount of fantasy payroll to spend on players to fill their rosters. Then, using statistics from that day's real games, players are awarded points based on the performance of the players they selected. For example, a home run is 10 points and a strikeout is 2 points.
Players can win up to $150,000 on a game with a $333 entry fee on DraftKings. A $300 entry fee on FanDuel puts players in the running for a $10,000 first prize.
There are also free games, and games for beginners that are restricted to less-experienced players.
In a matter of weeks, a task force will begin studying the games to try to come up with a permanent law to replace the one set to expire July 1, 2017.
"Eleven states have passed similar laws," Tindell said. "So we'll take a look at that and see what works best."
A report from the task force is due to the Legislature by Oct. 15.