Throughout its seven-year existence, DraftKings has shown a willingness to offer contests for a number of secondary, lesser-known sports leagues.
Meanwhile, during its considerable life span, the Arena Football League (AFL) has demonstrated a knack for thinking outside the box itself. And, it’s defied the odds while becoming the longest-running U.S.-based professional alternative football league by a comfortable margin.
Fittingly, DK and the AFL officially join hands with kickoff of the league’s 32nd season Friday night. The DFS industry leader will offer a robust selection of Guaranteed Prize Pools (GPPs) and cash games based on the AFL’s weekly games through the 13-week regular season, the two-week, home-and-home playoff series between the top four teams and the ArenaBowl.
The AFL’s regular season runs April 26 through July 21. The playoffs begin July 2. Then, the ArenaBowl will take place on the second weekend in August. The AFL becomes the 12th fantasy sports category for DK, which laps the field in the industry in terms of contest offerings.
Week 1 AFL DraftKings offerings include:
- AFL Launch Special: $10 entry fee, $10,000 prize pool, $2K to first
- Three-player leagues with as high as $10.6K entry fee
- $4K Game Changer (non-guaranteed) four-player league with $1,060 entry
- $1K Hot Route (single entry), which carries a $100 entry fee, checks in as the most expensive Week 1 GPP
AFL has had no shortage of trials and tribulations
The first news of a DK-AFL partnership came just over a year ago. At the time, it was announced that DK would be the AFL’s official fantasy partner. Additionally, the deal was said to include live streaming of AFL games within the DK Live app, similar to the arrangement the company has with Euroleague basketball.
That the AFL is even alive and kicking — much less partnering with any other entities — is somewhat remarkable in and of itself. The league, originally the brainchild of Jim Foster, a former NFL and USFL employee. After developing the concept for years, Foster was able to launch the AFL with a test game in April 1986. Then, on June 19, 1987, the league officially launched its first regular season.
Over the years, a host of financial problems at both the team and league-wide levels have led to contraction, countless team relocations, a cancelled season (2009), bankruptcy and the eventual reorganization to the current iteration
The league will consist of six teams in the 2019 season- the Albany Empire, Atlantic City Blackjacks, Baltimore Brigade, Columbus Destroyers, Philadelphia Soul and Washington Valor. That actually represents an expansion by two clubs from the 2018 campaign.
Not DK’s first rodeo with secondary football leagues
The partnership with the AFL follows DK’s ongoing involvement with what is officially the most senior North American alternative professional football league — the Canadian Football League (CFL). The CFL and DK began working together ahead of the league’s 2016 season. The partnership is expected to extend into the forthcoming 2019 CFL campaign.
The CFL experience helped shape the company’s plan for the first season of AFL contests.
“We leveraged our key learnings from our partnership with the CFL to further enhance that offering as well as the customer experience of our AFL product,” explains Greg Karamitis, Senior VP of Product Development at DraftKings.
Notably, one of the few professional sports entities DK declined involvement with in any form was the recently defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF).
The operator, along with fellow industry giant FanDuel, opted to not offer any contests for the AAF’s first season, although both companies did make betting markets available on the sportsbook side. In hindsight, the decision to remain out of the AAF DFS space altogether seems prescient following the league’s demise after just eight weeks.
The length of the AFL’s tenure as an operational sports product — albeit one that’s experienced a fair share of bumps along the way — clearly set it apart from the upstart AAF when it came to DK’s decision to offer DFS contests for it.
“AFL is an established brand that has been around since 1987, making it the third longest-running professional football league in North America. Although it was unfortunate that the AAF did not pan out as envisioned, the AFL is a completely different game experience,” explained Karamitis. “AFL is also a growing league having expanded from 4 to 6 teams this season showing us that the customer demand is clear. We want to be a part of that growth and give our customers the experiences they crave.”
DK Sportsbook does have AFL Week 1 betting markets up in its lobby. Additionally, team futures in the form of ArenaBowl 2019 winners are also available. The Soul, last season’s champions, lead the pack at +200 odds to repeat.