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The Almighty Buck

Fantasy Sports Sites Ordered To Stop Taking Bets In New York State (nytimes.com) 125

HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that in a major blow to a multibillion-dollar industry that introduced sports betting to legions of young sports fans, the New York State attorney general has ordered the two biggest daily fantasy sports companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, to stop accepting bets from New York residents. He said their games constituted illegal gambling under state law. "It is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country," says NY attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, "Today we have sent a clear message: not in New York, and not on my watch."

Fantasy sports companies contend that their games are not gambling because they involve more skill than luck, and because they were legally sanctioned by a 2006 federal law that exempted fantasy sports from a prohibition against processing online financial wagering. "Fantasy sports is a game of skill and legal under New York state law," says FanDuel. "This is a politician telling hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers they are not allowed to play a game they love and share with friends, family, co-workers and players across the country." The attorney general's office also said that ads on the two sites "seriously mislead New York citizens about their prospects of winning." State investigators found that to date, "the top 1 percent of DraftKings winners receive the vast majority of the winnings." Schneiderman's investigation was spurred after reports arose that a DraftKings employee used internal data to win $350,000 on rival site FanDuel, which the operators denied. While both companies had allowed employees to place bets on the others site, they have since banned such practices.

The Internet

Scandal Erupts In Unregulated Online World of Fantasy Sports 174

HughPickens.com writes: Joe Drape and Jacqueline Williams report at the NYT that a major scandal is erupting in the multibillion-dollar industry of fantasy sports, the online and unregulated business in which an estimated 57 million people participate where players assemble their fantasy teams with real athletes. Two major fantasy sports companies were forced to release statements defending their businesses' integrity after what amounted to allegations of insider trading — that employees were placing bets using information not generally available to the public. "It is absolutely akin to insider trading. It gives that person a distinct edge in a contest," says Daniel Wallach. "It could imperil this nascent industry unless real, immediate and meaningful safeguards are put in place."

In FanDuel's $5 million "NFL Sunday Million" contest this week, DraftKings employee Ethan Haskell placed second and won $350,000 with his lineup that had a mix of big-name players owned by a high number of users. Haskell had access to DraftKings ownership data meaning that he may have seen which NFL players had been selected by DraftKings users, and by how many users. In light of this scandal, DraftKings and FanDuel have, for now, banned their employees from playing on each other's sites. Many in the highly regulated casino industry insist daily fantasy sports leagues are gambling sites and shouldn't be treated any differently than traditional sports betting. This would mean a high amount of regulation. Industry analyst Chris Grove says this may be a watershed moment for a sector that may need the legislation it has resisted in order to prove its legitimacy. "You have information that is valuable and should be tightly restricted," says Grove. "There are people outside of the company that place value on that information. Is there any internal controls? Any audit process? The inability of the industry to produce a clear and compelling answer to these questions to anyone's satisfaction is why it needs to be regulated."

A Computer Umpires Its First Pro Baseball Game 68

An anonymous reader writes: Baseball has long been regarded as a "game of inches." Among the major professional sports it arguably requires the greatest amount of precision — a few extra RPMs can turn a decent curveball into an unhittable one, and a single degree's difference in the arc of a bat swing can change a lazy popup into a home run. As sensor technology has improved, it's been odd to see how pro baseball leagues have made great efforts to keep it away from the sport. Even if you aren't a fan of the game, you're probably familiar with the cultural meme of an umpire blowing a key call and altering the course of the game.

Thus, it's significant that for the first time ever, sensors and a computer have called balls and strikes for a professional game. In a minor league game between the San Rafael Pacifics and the Vallejo Admirals, a three-camera system tracked the baseball's exact position as it crossed home plate, and a computer judged whether it was in the strike zone or not. The game went without incident, and it provided valuable data in a real-life example. The pitch-tracking system still has bugs to work out, though. Dan Brooks, founder of a site that tracks ball/strike accuracy for real umpires, said that for the new system to be implemented permanently, fans must be "willing to accept a much smaller amount of inexplicable error in exchange for a larger amount of explicable error."

The NFL Wants You To Think These Things Are Illegal 227

An anonymous reader writes: Professional sports have become a minefield of copyright and trademark issues, and no event moreso than the Super Bowl. Sherwin Siy of Public Knowledge has an article debunking some of the things the NFL has convinced people they can't do, even through they're perfectly legal. For example, you've probably heard the warning about how "descriptions" and "accounts" of the game are prohibited without the NFL's consent. That's all hogwash: "The NFL would be laughed out of court for trying to prevent them from doing so—just because you have a copyright in a work doesn't mean you can prevent people from talking about it. Copyright simply doesn't extend that far." Recording the game and watching it later is just fine, too.

So, will you be paying attention to the game today? Ignoring it? Practicing your cultivated disinterest?

Under Armour/Lockheed Suit Blamed For US Skating Performance 357

Koreantoast writes "The United States' surprisingly poor performance in speedskating, despite strong performances in recent World Cup events, has been blamed in part on an untested speedskating suit. The Mach 39, designed through a joint venture between Under Armour and Lockheed Martin, was supposed to provide Team USA with a high tech advantage, using advanced fluid dynamic models and a dimpled surface to disrupt air flow and improve comfort. Instead, performances have been disastrous thus far, with athletes going as far as modifying their suits at the Olympics to try and reverse their fortunes. The suits have caused enough concerns that U.S. Speedskating is taking the unusual step of seeking special dispensation from International Skating Union to ditch the high tech suits and switch back to their old uniforms. Teams are normally required to keep the same equipment through the entire Games. Insert jokes and comparisons to Lockheed's more famous product, the JSF, here."

How Russia Transformed a Subtropical Beach Resort To Host the Winter Olympics 359

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Duncan Geere reports at The Verge that Russian resort as Sochi, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, is humid and subtropical with temperatures averaging about 52 degrees Fahrenheit (12 C) in the winter, and 75 degrees (24 C) in the summer. "There is almost no snow here — at the moment it's raining," says Olga Mironova, a local resident. It's estimated that the cost of staging the Olympics in Sochi has been greater than the previous three Winter Games combined — ballooning to a whopping $51 billion including the cost of implementing an extensive system of safeguards to ensure there'll be sufficient snow in Sochi for the games including the cost of implementing one of the largest snowmaking systems in Europe. The system includes two huge water reservoirs that feed 400 snow cannons installed along the slopes that can generate snow in temperatures of up to 60 degrees fahrenheit (16 C). If that snow isn't enough, then the authorities will fall back on 710,000 cubic meters of snow collected during the winters of previous years leading up to the games. To keep it from melting in the region's hot summers, 10 separate stockpiles have been kept packed tight under insulating covers high up in the mountains, safe from the sun's rays. Down in Sochi itself the other half of the games will be held in five indoor arenas that will host figure skating, speed skating, hockey, and curling, and an additional outdoor area will host the opening and closing ceremonies. In each of these indoor arenas, underfloor cooling systems are installed so that the ice stays frozen above it using propylene glycol, which doesn't freeze until temperatures reach 8.6 F (-13 C). Climatologists predict that even under a best-case scenario, almost half the venues that have hosted the Winter Olympics over the last century would be unable to do so by 2080 without resorting to extensive and expensive artificial snowmaking techniques.""

Baseball Software Can't Score What Jean Segura Did Friday 223

JimboFBX writes "Interesting piece of baseball history happened on Friday. Jean Segura of the Milwaukee Brewers stole second, tried to steal third too early, but made it back to second before being tagged. The problem was that teammate Ryan Braun already made it to second on the steal attempt. After tags were applied to both baserunners, Segura started trotting to the dugout before realizing that he wasn't out, Braun was, and his only option was to make it back to first. He then of course proceeded to try to steal second base again. The software for keeping the box score? Doesn't (yet) support someone running backwards on the bases. Looks like that will have to change." Here is video of the sequence.

TSA 'Secured' Metrodome During Recent Football Game 364

McGruber writes "Travel writer Christopher Elliott touches down with the news that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration was spotted standing around outside a recent American football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers (picture). According to Mr. Elliott, the 'TSA goes to NFL games and political conventions and all kinds of places that have little or nothing to do with ... travel. It even has a special division called VIPR — an unfortunate acronym for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team — that conducts these searches.' He continues, 'As far as I can tell, TSA is just asking questions at this point. "Data and results collected through the Highway BASE program will inform TSA's policy and program initiatives and allow TSA to provide focused resources and tools to enhance the overall security posture within the surface transportation community," it says in the filing. But they wouldn't be wasting our money asking such questions unless they planned to aggressively expand VIPR at some point in the near future. And that means TSA agents at NFL games, in subways and at the port won't be the exception anymore — they will be the rule.'"

Statistics Key To Success In Run-and-Gun Basketball 97

theodp writes "Two decades before Moneyball hit the Big Screen, Coach David Arseneault of tiny Grinnell College came up with a unique style of run-and-gun basketball that he called The System, the principles of which were subjected to statistical analysis in Keys to Success in a Run-and-Gun Basketball System, a paper for the 2011 Joint Statistical Meetings. Well, as they say, sometimes The System works. On Tuesday, biochem major Jack Taylor, just three games into his career as a Grinnell College basketball player, made national news when he poured in 138 points — yes, 138 points — in a 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible College. Even LeBron and Kobe were impressed. The old NCAA Division III record of 89 was set last year by Taylor's Grinnell teammate, Griffin Lentsch. Taylor's feat also bested what was deemed to be the unbeatable overall NCAA scoring record of 113 points, set by NCAA Division II performer Clarence 'Bevo' Francis of Rio Grande in 1954."

The Olympic Live Stream: Observations, Recommendations, Predictions 82

lpress writes "The Tour de France and the Olympics were live streamed on the Web. The BBC streamed 2,500 hours of live coverage of the Olympics and NBC streamed the entire Tour de France and 302 events from all 32 Olympic sports. I watched both events as a fan and as an observer of the online content and the network performance. I blogged detailed descriptions of my experience and summarized it in 12 observations and recommendations. The summary concludes with predictions about the way live events will be covered in the future — coverage of these events was an early step in a major shakeup of the way live events are produced, distributed and viewed."

Speed of Sound Is Too Slow For the Olympics 255

Hugh Pickens "For decades sports-event organizers have placed speakers behind athletes to convey the sound of an actual pistol but they found that even though the noise came through the speakers all at once, athletes continued to wait for the 'real' sound, ignoring the sounds that came through the speakers ever-so-slightly slowing down the farthest athlete from the gun. Now Rebecca Rosen writes that when the Olympic runners take to their positions on the track later this week, they'll crouch on the ground, ears pricked, and wait for the starting beep played by a 'pistol' that's not a pistol at all, but something more akin to an electronic instrument with only one key. The pistol itself is silent." Read on for a bit more about the difficulties of timing people with superhuman reaction times.

Big Media and Big Telcos Getting Nasty In Landmark Australian Law Case 77

Fluffeh writes "In Australia, we have the right to record TV and play it back at a later date; we also have the right to transcode from one format to another, so anyone with a media server can legally back up their entire DVD collection and watch it without all those annoying warnings and unskippable content — as long as we don't break encryption (please stop laughing!). Optus, Australia's second largest Telco, has been raising ire though with the new TV Now service they are offering and Big Media is having a hissy fit. The service does the recording on behalf of the customer. Seems like a no-brainer right? Let the customer do what they are allowed to legally do at home, but charge them for it. Everybody wins! Not according to Sports Broadcasters, who made this statement when Optus said they would appeal their recent loss in an Australian Court to the highest court in the land: 'They are a disgusting organization who is acting reprehensibly again and now putting more uncertainty into sports and broadcast rights going forward I'm really disappointed and disgusted in the comments of their CEO overnight.' Is this yet another case of Big Media clutching at an outdated business model, or should consumers be content with just doing their own work?"

Growing Evidence of Football Causing Brain Damage 684

ideonexus writes "NFL Linebacker Junior Seau's suicide this week bears a striking similarity to NFL Safety Dave Duerson's suicide last year, who shot himself in the chest so that doctors could study his brain, where they found the same chronic traumatic encephalopathy that has been found in the brains of 20 other dead football players. Malcom Gladwell stirred up controversy in 2009 by comparing professional football to dog fighting for the trauma the game inflicts on players' brains. With mounting evidence that the repeated concussions football players receive during their careers causing a lifetime of brain problems, it raises serious concerns about America's most popular sport and ethical questions for its fanbase."

Optus Loses Second Battle In Aussie TV-Timeshifting Battle 38

beaverdownunder writes "After winning an initial legal battle to continue its mobile 'TV Now' terrestrial-television re-broadcasting service, Optus has lost a second battle in Australian Federal court. The Optus system 'time-shifted' broadcast signals by two minutes, and then streamed them to customers' mobile phones. In the previous ruling, the judge sided with Optus' argument that since the customer requested the service, they were the ones recording the signal, and thus it was fair-use under Australian copyright law. However, the new ruling declared Optus to be the true entity recording and re-distributing the broadcasts, and thus in violation of the law. There has been no word yet on whether Optus will appeal the decision, but as they could be retroactively liable for a great deal of damages, it is almost certain that they will."
The Media

New BBC Sports Website Makes Heavy Use of RDF 89

New submitter whyloginwhysubscribe writes "A technical blog post describes how the BBC has rolled out the latest changes to its sports website in anticipation of the Summer Olympics in London. The innovative content management system extends the already available dynamic semantic publishing, which enables their journalists 'to spend more time creating great content and less time managing that content.' The post covers some of the technical and lots of the HCI / UI design decisions and is accompanied by a non-technical overview of the re-design."

"Consider a spherical bear, in simple harmonic motion..." -- Professor in the UCB physics department