Daily Fantasy F***ed: Swagger Stadium is Staggering
Internet sites that offer you the chance to play daily fantasy sports are all the rage these days in America, and the industry is exploding.
Lots of companies are getting into the act and lots of money is being made.
The daily fantasy sports explosion, in fact, is being compared to a similar explosion that occurred about 20 years ago, when online gambling sites first started appearing on the Internet and cash was gushing like oil for the early operators.
Eventually a lot of those early operators of online sportsbooks, online casinos and online poker rooms went out of business, as the industry quickly reached a saturation point and there were more than enough gambling sites for the world's online gamblers.
Online gambling sites also went out of business simply because the operators were in over their heads--they didn't know what they were doing and either refused to learn or were too stupid to learn.
And of course there were more than a few Internet gambling sites that went out of business because they were crooked operations and word of it got around, ironically enough, via the Internet.
Now fast forward to the present and the daily fantasy sports industry is going through the same catharsis crisis that online gambling did two decades ago.
Daily fantasy sites have exploded but now some are starting to implode.
Several have gone out of business in recent weeks and several others appear to be teetering on the edge of survival.
DFS 911 today starts a new series called "Daily Fantasy F---ed," in which we reveal which daily fantasy sports sites have, well, f---ed up in some manner or form that customers and potential customers should know about before they risk their hard-earned dollars at said sites.
First up is a daily fantasy sports website called Swagger Stadium, which is run from Minnesota in the tiny Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata.
Our sister site Gambling 911 earlier this year interviewed Travis Hills, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Swagger Stadium, who declared: " I have owned and operated many different businesses across multiple industries in my professional life and have been involved with fantasy sports for about five years. I have such an intense passion and energy for sports and fantasy sports specifically that I made it my mission to provide a unique and unrivaled fantasy sports experience for sports fans."
Now it appears that Swagger Stadium may have lost its swagger and is heading towards extinction.
Or is it?
A Swagger Stadium customer recently emailed DFS 911: "Is Swagger Stadium still operating? Are they refunding their customers' accounts? Is there a story here? About five months ago, you did a feature interview on Swagger Stadium. Well, I liked what I read and made a deposit and have played several times with modest success. But now they have gone silent, no games offered and no comments, although they did post to their Twitter account earlier this week. I have tried to do a withdrawal but I don't think they are processing any withdrawals. It looks bad and is not good for the daily fantasy sports industry. And it does not look good for those associated with Swagger Stadium. Maybe you have some insights. Maybe you can find out what's going on. Certainly Swagger Stadium does not want to mess with an industry site like yours. Please look into this, there may be a story."
DFS 911 then contacted Hills to relay the customer's concerns and was told by the Swagger Stadium CEO that "all is good" and that the site is "going through a major rebranding and a new version of the site is being launched."
When the disgruntled Swagger Stadium customer was told of the CEO's response, the customer's reaction was: "Sincere thanks for your efforts here. You have reported on lots of stuff in the gambling industry. We both know that this doesn't pass the smell test. Swagger Stadium money has gone to Travis and his partner, Kelly Kranz. It's not like they could lose money at Swagger Stadium as there were no guaranteed games. If it didn't fill and guarantee a profit it didn't run. I have called their office, no answer and no return call when I leave a message. I have tried to do a withdrawal almost daily for three weeks now, no such luck. I have emailed firstname.lastname@example.org without response. I have emailed Kelly Kranz a few times without response. Thanks for the encouraging words, and I hope you are right. But it certainly looks bad. I'm calling the local police to have them check out their address. I have already filed a fraud report with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office and alerted Paypal. Facebook took down the Swagger Stadium page."
DFS 911 never recommended that anyone sign up with Swagger Stadium, but since it did give the fantasy site a lot of exposure via its interview with the site's CEO, it decided to look deeper into the company and its head man.
What DFS 911 discovered is not pretty.
In fact, it's downright ugly.
According to a May 28, 2015 report on the website of KSTP, a Minneapolis television station ( http://kstp.com/article/stories/s3809722.shtml), Hills is under a mountain of debt to the tax man.
The Swagger Stadium boss owes some big swag.
Hills is a tax deadbeat, according to the TV station, as is his wife, and neither has paid huge sums of owed back taxes.
The KSTP story declares: "A Wayzata husband and wife who own several fitness and tanning businesses are charged with failing to file tax returns and pay taxes. The Sherburne County Attorney’s Office says Travis Hills has been charged with five counts of failing to file returns and five counts of failing to pay taxes. Miranda Hills has also been charged with four counts of failing to file returns and four counts of failing to pay taxes. According to the criminal complaint, the couple owes the state about $99,000 in delinquent income tax and more than $4,000 in delinquent sales tax. Prosecutors say they didn’t pay taxes for 2008 through 2011. Each felony charge carries up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines."
Just because Hills owes back taxes doesn't mean he's a crook or that Swagger Stadium is a bunco operation.
But it certainly does raise a red flag large enough to engulf a football field--if a guy can't run a simple tanning salon without getting into financial trouble, how can he manage to run a high-dollar, start-up Internet company and keep it financially stable?
Upon learning about Hills' tax troubles, Gambling 911 contacted him again for comment, but this time he wasn't so eager to respond.
We're still waiting to hear from him.
When--or more likely if--he responds, Gambling 911 will let you know what he says.
Until then, Swagger Stadium remains Stagger Stadium, and that's not good.
By Tom Somach
DFS 911 Staff Writer