Phil Ivey Gets on the DFS Gravy Train with iTEAM Network, Hoping It Won’t Derail

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Phil Ivey to launch DFS site
Phil Ivey plans to enter the potentially lucrative DFS market with a new daily fantasy sports site. But legal hurdles may hit him hard in the turbulent industry. (Image:

Poker superstar Phil Ivey, besides being a daunting player, has his ear to the ground regarding business opportunities as well. If there’s money to be made, Ivey is interested; after all, his annual legal bills alone must be the equivalent of some countries entire debt load.

So it’s probably no surprise that Ivey has announced plans to launch his own daily fantasy sports (DFS) brand with his new site, due to launch on the iTEAM Network platform in February.

DFS has grown into a multibillion-dollar business over the past few years. Gaming analyst Eilers Research has said that daily fantasy games generated around $2.6 billion in entry fees in 2015 and that’s expected to grow 41 percent annually, reaching $14.4 billion in 2020. Ivey, sharp cookie that he is, would like a piece of that pie.

“Over the past few years, I’ve been looking for more ways to share with fans my perspective on daily fantasy sports,” proclaimed Ivey in a press release. “I was honored to have multiple options, but iTEAM Network’s focus on compliance and the core technology, along with the leadership of Gabe Hunterton, ultimately made it a pretty easy decision.”

Big Poker Crossover

Hunterton is an old acquaintance of Ivey’s, an ex-dealer at the El Cortez Casino in downtown Las Vegas, who rose to the top of GM Resorts Galaxy Entertainment Group to become Chief Operating Officer of StarWorld Hotel and Casino in Macau. Ivey spends a lot of his time in the Chinese gambling enclave these days, and Hunterton now heads up the iTEAM network. Badda bing badda boom.

Ivey, a sports fanatic himself, is only too aware of the crossover between poker and daily fantasy sports, as is Amaya Gaming, which is also planning to take DFS by storm under the name “Starsdraft,” an extension of the PokerStars brand.

Just last weekend, poker player Aaron Jones, who once sold his LeggoPoker training business to Ivey, was named the DraftKings Fantasy Football World Champion, taking home $5 million in the biggest DFS contest of all time.

“There is a large crossover between poker players and DFS players,” said Hunterton.  “Adding the Phil Ivey brand will substantially increase network-wide player liquidity and prize pools.  We have already started an aggressive marketing and execution plan in which PhilIveyDFS users will be able to compete immediately for more than $20,000 in weekly pro basketball contests and interact directly with Phil.”

Risky Business

Nevertheless, the industry is going through a turbulent time at the moment, with top sites DraftKings and FanDuel engaged in bitter litigation with the New York Attorney General’s Office. AG Eric Schneiderman has accused the two sites of committing “repeated and persistent fraudulent acts” and wants to shut them down for offering illegal gambling.

He has also threatened the two industry leaders with fines of over $3 billion.

Ivey’s recent ventures, such as IveyPoker and IveyLeague, appear to have stalled, and meanwhile, results of his rumored dalliance with the medical marijuana industry (he received a license from the State of Nevada in October 2014) have seemingly gone up in smoke.

But while DFS might be a risky business in the current climate, if anyone is risk-tolerant, it’s Ivey.  In the worst case scenario, he certainly knows his way around the legal system by now on both sides of the pond, so he’s ahead of the game either way.

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