ESPN’s Outside the Lines recently did a feature on the now defunct World Championship of Fantasy Football (WCOFF).
The WCOFF was the largest fantasy league in the world. The winners of their Main Event (an $1,800 buy-in league) would bank over $300,000. They’d also host higher buy-in leagues to the tune of $25,000-50,000.
Poker and poker celebrity were often integrated into the main WCOFF draft bonanza, which took place in Las Vegas. PokerStars was a WCOFF sponsor, and players like Dennis Phillips and Daniel Negreanu (seen in the above clip) were staples at the drafts.
Despite its enormity, the WCOFF went out of business this year, and is now facing serious legal issues, as the Missouri Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against the company and its owner Dustin Ashby.
Unlike its one-time sponsor PokerStars, WCOFF management apparently went the Full Tilt route and did not segregate player/team buy-ins for the leagues, eventually stiffing its customers out of anywhere from hundreds of thousands to potentially over a million dollars.
Interestingly, we’ve learned that Dennis Phillips was at one time a focus of the OTL feature. He was rumored to have forged a close relationship with the WCOFF, which also has mid-Western, St. Louis-ish roots. OTL investigated any potential role Phillips may have had, but he able to thoroughly clear his name, and was left out entirely from the story.
The focus has now shifted to Dustin Ashby, an individual we’ve met on a number of occasions. The primary focus on him, of course is what did he do with all of the missing money? According to people we’ve spoken with with ties to Ashby, they believe the money was lost on sports betting. Ashby’s quote in the above video about the company making “bad bets” somewhat alludes to that theory as well.
It’s unfortunate for WCOFF winners. Unlike Full Tilt, which at least had assets to liquidate, the WCOFF appears completely done, with no chance to pay back its customers.
It’s also yet another example of why regulatory bodies for online poker–or organized fantasy leagues–are vital for the viability of their respective industry. Controls and measures to manage customer funds is a must. If those controls don’t exist, the businesses almost always goes awry–and the customers are the ones who pay the price.