Unveiling Polygon’s Unconventional Partnership With DraftKings


In the ever-evolving landscape of cryptocurrency, intriguing partnerships often emerge, shaping the dynamics of blockchain governance. A recent and noteworthy example involves Polygon Labs, known for its innovative tech infrastructure, and DraftKings, a giant in sports betting. This partnership, however, harbors more than meets the eye.

Polygon Labs, in a significant move, incorporated DraftKings to run one of its network validators in early 2022. This step was hailed as a landmark, marking the first instance of a major publicly-traded company actively participating in blockchain governance. Yet, beneath this veneer of technological advancement and collaboration, a complex financial arrangement was quietly unfolding.

Behind the scenes, Polygon Labs was compensating DraftKings with substantial amounts of its cryptocurrency, MATIC. This deal, cloaked in confidentiality, saw DraftKings receiving millions in MATIC at the onset of their partnership in October 2021. Adding to the intrigue, DraftKings benefitted from a unique staking relationship within Polygon’s network, a privilege not extended to other validators.

This scenario is not entirely alien in the Web3 sphere, where companies often incentivize mainstream brands to join their ecosystems, a practice shrouded in secrecy due to the hefty price of fostering mainstream adoption. The DraftKings-Polygon arrangement provides a rare glimpse into such deals, with on-chain data revealing the preferential treatment DraftKings enjoyed.

Delving deeper into the responsibilities of a validator within the Polygon network sheds more light on this unusual arrangement. In essence, validators are crucial cogs in the network’s machinery, responsible for verifying transactions. They stake MATIC as collateral, ensuring integrity in their operations. Typically, validators earn MATIC rewards proportionate to their staked amount, with most charging a commission of 5%-10% on rewards earned from delegated tokens.

DraftKings’ validator, however, stood apart, charging an unprecedented 100% commission, leaving its delegators without any reward. This approach significantly deviated from the norm and raised questions about the fairness and transparency of the network’s governance structure.

Moreover, the scale of MATIC delegated to DraftKings by Polygon was exceptional. Polygon’s strategy involved a substantial delegation of tokens to DraftKings, enabling it to amass significant staking rewards. This move, while financially savvy for both parties, raised concerns about the dilution of rewards for other participants in the ecosystem.

As the partnership progressed, DraftKings’ validator grew in stature within the network, largely fueled by Polygon’s delegated tokens. Yet, despite its size and the rewards it accrued, the validator’s performance eventually waned, leading to its underperformance and subsequent removal from the network.

This decline raises questions about the operational priorities of both entities and the long-term sustainability of such partnerships in the blockchain world. It also highlights the fragile balance between fostering mainstream adoption of blockchain technology and maintaining the foundational principles of decentralization and equitable governance.

In conclusion, the DraftKings-Polygon partnership, while innovative in bridging mainstream companies with blockchain governance, also serves as a cautionary tale. It underscores the need for transparency and equitable practices in the management of blockchain networks. As the crypto landscape continues to evolve, such partnerships will undoubtedly continue to emerge, each offering valuable lessons in the delicate art of balancing innovation with integrity in the decentralized world.