Daily fantasy sports may still be a mystery to some fans, but there are indications they won't be for long.
Daily fantasy sports depart from the familiar traditional season-long stats game by allowing participants to pick new teams every day in baseball, basketball and hockey, and every week in football. Participants play for money -- from $1 up to hundreds of dollars per contest -- and it's legal in 45 states, including Maryland.
Daily fantasy sports' popularity has accelerated, both in participation and prizes. Additionally, heavyweights in the sports establishment are increasingly accepting of daily fantasy sports.
During the summer of 2014, FanDuel.com, a daily fantasy sports website, will hold its premier event, the Daily Fantasy Baseball Championship. The prize pool will be $3 million, including $1 million for first place.
Four years ago, the prize pool for FanDuel's first baseball championship event was $100,000.
The $3 million FanDuel baseball championship is part of FanDuel's World Fantasy Baseball Championships, eight fantasy contests, running Aug. 12-16, worth $5 million total in prizes for fantasy managers.
The final three days will be held at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a gambling resort.
"We have a heritage with the [Daily Fantasy Baseball Championship]," FanDuel marketing director Ken Berman said, "but we wanted to make it bigger, better and more accessible."
Berman helped put together the Vegas plans. The August extravaganza, especially the stretch in Vegas, is meant to be aspirational for FanDuel's customers, he said.
"The World Series of Poker was an inspiration," Berman said. "We wanted to create something that was bigger, with more appeal. … It's a weeklong fantasy baseball festival."
Some of the eight contests in August, including the $3 million championship Aug. 16, will require players to qualify. Throughout the MLB season, 70 FanDuelers will earn trips to the Cosmopolitan, where there will be a specially outfitted party room to follow the tournament's outcome. The same will be true for a couple of so-called "Survivor" tournaments, during which five finalists will make the cut for each contest and head to Vegas.
Then there will be a High Roller event at the Cosmopolitan Aug. 14 with a buy-in of $12,500, which includes the trip and a prize pool of $250,000. The only qualifier for the High Roller is being able to put up the money, and the first 25 fantasy mavens to register are in. Berman said High Roller sign-ups had already started.
For those looking for a smaller entry fee, there will be a $200 buy-in contest called King of the Diamond with a $1 million prize pool. That will be a hybrid event for players both online and live at the Cosmopolitan Aug. 15.
DraftKings.com, a daily fantasy sports website that started about two years ago, has partnered with MLB.com and is customizing the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com. It's a free contest with daily prizes of 30-day access to MLB.tv, weekly prizes of tickets to baseball games, and experiential awards of trips and tickets to the All-Star Game and World Series.
"It is very significant for the industry [of daily fantasy sports] that an emergent company is able to have this type of partnership," said Femi Wasserman, DraftKings' vice president of communications.
A couple of years ago, most conversations about daily fantasy sports involved why and how they were legal. The federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, passed in 2006, created a carve out for fantasy sports. Maryland state officials passed legislation in 2012 allowing fantasy sports participation for prizes.
"It has been the tension in the industry and certainly among the obstacles," Wasserman said of education efforts regarding daily fantasy contests. "That we were able to partner with MLB.com says a lot about the better understanding of this industry."
Details for the MLB.com-DraftKings contest are at draftkings.com/mlb-fantasy-baseball.
DraftKings has daily fantasy contests in baseball, basketball and hockey. Some contests are free or have entry fees of $1 and $2, even 25 cents. Then, there are contests with $400,000 prize pools and $200 buy-ins. In 2014, DraftKings expects to pass through $200 million to winners.
On April 3, Pimlico Race Course began its spring meet, which will include the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes May 16 and the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes May 17.
Live racing at Old Hilltop takes place Thursday through Sunday each week before the Preakness, and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday (plus Memorial Day) after the Preakness. There will be no live racing April 20 or May 18. The meet will end June 7, Belmont Stakes Day.
During the course of the nine-week meet, Pimlico's race cards will feature 25 stakes races for purses totaling $4.68 million.
Concerts are part of the entertainment package at Pimlico Race Course during the third weekend in May. At the Black-Eyed Susan, Annie Bosko, The Fray and Counting Crows are scheduled to perform. And at the Preakness, double Grammy Award winner Lorde will be the headliner, with Switchfoot, Eli Young Band, Sundy Best and Go Go Gadjet also entertaining.