Texas Daily Fantasy Sports

Daily fantasy sports, or DFS, translate traditional season-long fantasy sports into a daily format that satisfies gamblers with shorter attention spans. They are also one of the few online gambling options for Texans at the moment.

From a purely legal standpoint, DFS operates in a gray area in terms of Texas state law. There is no explicit law on the books making it legal. But there is no law making DFS explicitly illegal in the state, either. Despite an unfavorable attorney general opinion on the record, an ongoing court battle has given years of cover for most DFS providers to continue to invite Texas players to take part in their contests.

This page explains everything that is happening with DFS in Texas, including what you need to know about the legal situation for playing. While daily fantasy sports currently remain available in Texas, there’s a chance that DFS sites may cease operating in the state in the future. Until that happens, though, you can still play daily fantasy sports in Texas, and here’s how to do so.

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What are daily fantasy sports contests?

If you’ve never played DFS, it’s understandable if you’re a bit unsure about how it works. Thankfully, daily fantasy sports contests are not difficult to understand if you’ve ever dealt with regular fantasy sports.

As a quick refresher, fantasy sports contests let you draft professional players onto a roster, regardless of the players’ actual teams. As the players participate in games, fantasy players receive points for their roster members’ statistical achievements. At the end of a set time frame (a full NFL season, for example), the fantasy player whose team has accumulated the most points wins.

The only real difference between DFS and standard fantasy contests is how long the contests last. Where standard fantasy contests often continue for an entire season of play, DFS contests are usually only active for a single day (as their name implies). Because they are shorter, DFS contests also have a greater degree of financial churn than the old-school version. The only other difference is that standard fantasy leagues tend to consist of a group of friends, but DFS contests usually involve strangers competing against one another across the internet.

Is daily fantasy sports legal in Texas?

Ugh … don’t ask. Nobody knows. Not even the government.

DFS has existed in Texas for many years in a sort of frozen state of conflict. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion in 2015 that daily fantasy sports are, in fact, gambling and thus illegal under state law. As a result of the opinion, top DFS provider FanDuel ceased allowing Texas players to participate in its contests.

However, FanDuel archrival DraftKings chose not to take the passive approach. Instead, DraftKings went on offense and filed a lawsuit to challenge Paxton’s opinion on the matter. While the case remained in the court system, DraftKings continued to allow Texans to participate. Since the wheels of justice turn slowly, legality is still up in the air.

FanDuel, emboldened by the de facto detente, returned to Texas in 2018 and joined its rival in the suit. Until the case is resolved, DFS remains a valid activity in Texas, even if no law on the books recognizes it as such.

Top Texas daily fantasy sports apps for 2023

Most of the top DFS sites are options for Texans at this time. As noted, the two market leaders, DraftKings and FanDuel, both operate in the state. Additionally, several other DFS providers invite Texas players to participate in their contests. The best DFS sites available in Texas include the following:

  • DraftKings — A greater selection of sports and events than almost any other site on the market.
  • FanDuel — FanDuel has few peers when it comes to available sports and diversity of formats.
  • Outlast — Outlast is a lesser-known DFS provider, but it has many options for fans of totals (over/unders).

DFS betting vs Sports betting: Key differences

There are some similarities to sports betting that DFS opponents can credibly mention as evidence that DFS is simply another way to wager on sports, but DFS bears significant differences from outright sports betting that render it a distinct property.

The first difference between DFS and sports betting is that DFS players are competing against one another, rather than against a contest provider. In sports betting, you’re betting against the sportsbook itself, and part of the oddsmakers’ job at a book is to ensure that the sportsbook’s liability to the players is relatively balanced on both sides of the wager. Daily fantasy sports betting is, instead, much more similar to online poker or, for that matter, any online video game that pits account holders against one another. In this regard, a DFS site is perhaps closer to Fortnite than to Caesars Sportsbook.

DFS operators also do not care about how you perform during your contests and do not have any interest in the games whatsoever. They merely collect their fees from each player beforehand and facilitate the contests. Sportsbooks can sometimes get burned by unexpected outcomes if their exposure is unbalanced on the wrong side. DFS sites never have to worry about every bettor going in the same direction.

Finally, DFS shares more similarities with prop betting than the main sports wagers, such as point spreads, moneylines, or totals. Players accrue points on a second-by-second basis in a DFS contest, rather than looking at the game result. A DFS player’s outlook or performance is only tangentially related to the actual outcome of a game, much as many prop bets don’t necessarily depend on game results.

How to play daily fantasy sports in Texas

Although every DFS site is different, there are some DFS contests you will encounter across many of them. In most cases, the differences between these contests are about the structure and format, rather than the way they determine a winner. In other words, it’s always going to be about the number of points that the leader accrues, but the manner in which the contest arrives at that conclusion is different. Here are some common types of DFS contests available in Texas:

  • Guaranteed prize pool — The DFS provider certifies that the prize payouts will come from a particular size pool of players or larger. Players accumulate points, and the highest-scoring players receive increasing amounts of the prize pool (that is, either the guarantee or the actual pool, whichever is higher) as they progress up the pay ladder. Guarantees can be some of the largest DFS contests, with thousands of people angling for the grand prize.
  • Head-to-head — A DFS contest that features no more than two people. Head-to-head contests are (obviously) winner-take-all and result in a 2x payout for the winner. They are easier to win than guaranteed prize pool contests, but you cannot grow rich off a single H2H match.
  • 50/50 — A 50/50 or “double-up” contest is a sort of head-to-head matchup between dozens of people, but you’re not playing any one player in particular. Instead, the top 50% of the field receives a payout once the contest concludes.
  • Showdown — Showdown contests restrict the number of athletes available for drafting. It’s not uncommon for both sides of your predictions to play against one another in the same game. You’ll have to assign multipliers to your chosen players and hope for great performances from your top-ranked athletes. Thus your timing and strategy will be under fire in a showdown.

What sports are offered in DFS?

Almost anything, and sometimes even some non-sports as well. NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL games are all available for DFS players. Esports contests are an option at some DFS sites. Even entertainment and awards show like The Bachelor, the Academy Awards and the Emmys can potentially provide DFS fodder.

Basically, any event where someone “wins” or “loses” is a conceivable target for daily fantasy sports contests. However, the following sports are the most popular options for DFS players:

Daily Fantasy Baseball

Whether you’re a fan of the Astros or Rangers, there are many ways to play fantasy baseball. You can roster a team of players you like to try to turn a $2 entry into a $20 guaranteed pool win or prove your hardball supremacy against a buddy in a head-to-head.

Most games have limits on how many players you can roster from one real team, though, so you’ll have to somewhat expand your knowledge base beyond the borders of Texas.

Daily Fantasy Basketball

Want to fast break down a virtual court with Dallas Mavericks or Houston Rockets players? Then fantasy basketball could be for you. Putting rosters together for these contests demands you balance your squad with players who will contribute in a number of ways. Even if you don’t have the top scorers on a night, you can still gain points with your players racking up boards, assists, blocks, and steals.

Daily Fantasy Football

Do you like some Dallas Cowboys or Houston Texans players to perform well in an upcoming game? There are plenty of options to play the most popular fantasy sport in the country.

In showdown contests, you can even isolate your options to just the games that Dallas and Houston are playing during a particular week. As another option, you can play in contests that are specific to Monday night or Thursday night games.

Daily Fantasy Golf

While this may be an individual sport, you’ll still be putting together a roster of contenders who are taking part in LPGA or PGA tournaments. The more birdies and eagles your picks string together on the course, the more points your “team” gathers. On the flip side, though, bogeys often detract from your point total.

Daily Fantasy Hockey

Some Dallas Stars players could be stars for your team if you play DFS hockey. Grab a spot in a contest, select your goalie(s) and skaters, then catch the NHL action. With every assist, goal and save that takes place on the ice, you’ll move either closer to or further away from the top prize. With games pretty much every day during the NHL season, there’s plenty of fantasy hockey available for Texans.

Daily Fantasy Soccer

Are you a fan of the Houston Dynamo or FC Dallas? Perhaps Austin FC has your support instead? You can roster those players and more in fantasy soccer contests. Many DFS providers also offer fantasy contests featuring players from international leagues. Because soccer is so widely popular all over the world, the number of options for rostering players and the variety of games is massive.

Daily Fantasy Tennis

One of the best things about fantasy tennis is that there are events going on all year long, so there’s no offseason. Put together a roster of ITF and WTA performers who you think will fare best in upcoming tournaments. For each point they score, each game they win, each set they finish, and with each match they win, you’ll add to your squad’s total.

Pay attention to any seasonal sports events going on, too, if you want to give DFS a try. Occasions like the NBA playoffs or March Madness will certainly yield plenty of extra daily fantasy sports options.

How popular are DFS contests in Texas?

Extremely popular, though we don’t have the exact overall numbers. However, what we do have are a few patterns of behavior that indicate DFS is a fixture in the state:

  • DraftKings’ insistence on fighting the state AG in court.
  • FanDuel’s return to Texas.
  • DraftKings’ deal with the Dallas Cowboys has allowed the company to place its first retail location in the state. The DraftKings Lounge is a great place to catch a game or play a contest while you watch.
  • Advertising on local TV indicates that DraftKings and FanDuel are ready for an influx of Texas players and money.

The bottom line is that as long as sports betting is illegal in Texas, DFS is likely to remain popular.

Outlook for Texas and daily fantasy sports

Ultimately, the future of daily fantasy sports in Texas hinges upon a couple of factors.

The first factor is the still-pending court case between the state and DraftKings that FanDuel joined as a plaintiff. Should a resolution arrive, it could well produce a judicial decision on the legality of daily fantasy sports in the state.

The other factor that could affect DFS in Texas would be lawmakers introducing any new DFS-related bills in the 2023 legislative session. This outcome is almost certainly a long shot, as gambling expansion of any kind has a tendency to hit a wall in the Texas Legislature. However, were a daily fantasy sports bill to appear and advance through the process, DFS could certainly become explicitly legal or illegal in the state.