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Daily fantasy sports players rally at New York State Attorney General's office

DraftKings and FanDuel daily fantasy sports players rallied outside of the attorney general's office in New York City on Nov. 13, 2015, against the recent decision by Eric Schneiderman to shut down the daily fantasy websites. (Credit: Craig Ruttle)

Chanting "let us play, let us play," about 300 people gathered Friday morning on the sidewalk outside state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's downtown Manhattan office building to protest his move to shut down the two leading daily fantasy sports websites, FanDuel and DraftKings.

Accompanied by a heavy NYPD presence, the mostly men in attendance donned t-shirts that said "#fantasysportsforall" and carried signs with slogans such as "Schneiderman should focus on real problems" and "Keep your laws off my lineup."

Many of the protestors at the hour-long rally admitted to being employees of one of the daily fantasy sports websites Schneiderman sent cease and desist letters to -- FanDuel and Draft Kings. Other people present said they already were planning to be in Manhattan for a fantasy sports convention taking place in Times Square.

But they all agreed that they don't want New York to prevent them from continuing to spend their money on daily fantasy sports websites, calling it "a game of skill" that distinguishes it from a chance-based game such as the lottery.

"What we are trying to accomplish here is to say, look, this is ridiculous," said Geoff Bough, senior director of business development at FanDuel. "Why is this the hot-button issue right now?"

Bough said more than a billion people in New York play daily fantasy sports with the two companies Schneiderman took action against.

"He's going to cost himself votes over this," he said. "I know he's not up until 2018 but let's be honest. He took a hardline stance against something people love and that makes people upset."

New York isn't the first state to challenge the fantasy sports companies. Last month, Nevada became the first state to take action when its regulators determined FanDuel and DraftKings were engaging in gambling and should stop doing business in the state.

George Harlamon, 29, who works in construction, traveled from Waterbury, Connecticut, for the rally even though he will not be affected by it.

At least not right away, he said, because he worried about the fallout.

"I feel like once New York does this, a lot of other state attorney generals will do the same," he said.

Harlamon said he's been playing daily fantasy sports on FanDuel for three years and has cashed out several significant sums during that time. He considers it a game of skill that he enjoys and he doesn't want to see it taken away.

Neither does Brian Edwards, 28, of Manhattan. He said he has a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Northwestern, works in math education and applies the same concepts to daily fantasy sports - to financial success, he said.

Edwards said he started playing DraftKings in June, but has made "four figures" by devising a strategy based on advanced statistical metrics in baseball.

"A lot of it is understanding which statistics are predictive instead of explanatory," he said.

Edwards called his use of the site "a hobby," and he said, "the money certainly makes it easier to justify spending time on this."

Bough, the FanDuel employee, suggested that the government regulate the industry rather than obliterate it.

"I don't think any of us have any problem with regulating it," he said. "You know, hey, if the state wants its cut, fine, let's talk about that."

Others agreed.

"We feel regulation is going to help this game," said Dan Back, who works for RotoGrinders, another daily fantasy sports website. "It's a multi-billion dollar business. We understand that. But it's also extremely popular."

The chant-filled rally ended peacefully at 9 a.m. without any official appearance from Schneiderman staffers, short of the security detail standing guard outside the doors.

"Did this really do anything? I don't know," said Harlamon. "I hope so."

New York Sports